[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, in a lengthy press conference Monday afternoon, outlined his plan to eliminate Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., and seek deep cuts elsewhere in the budget. He acknowledged the economic impact the closure could have for thousands of workers in the Norfolk region, but stood by his decision as a critical step in bringing defense spending under control.Governor Bob McDonnell, a military veteran, has already addressed the issue:
Gates estimated that the Virginia command accounts for 2,800 military and civilian positions, as well as 3,000 contractors, at an annual cost of at least $240 million. Though some employees could be reassigned elsewhere, Gates said a "substantial number" of full-time workers would have to find other positions or leave the Defense Department.
“I am deeply disappointed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ proposal to close the United States Joint Forces Command. We are at war abroad in multiple countries and closing the command where components from multiple branches of the military come together to provide intelligence and protection is the wrong decision. We live in a high-tech, interconnected world where collaboration and communication is key—the Joint Forces Command is vital to keep our homeland safe. The multiple joint operations and the modeling and simulations programs conducted by the Joint Forces Command is a long-term key to America’s national security and saves tremendous resources by using technology in lieu of expensive field exercise. Most experts acknowledge that the concepts of inter-operability and jointness are absolutely key to victory in modern warfare.Virginia's U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, both Democrats, have also spoken out against the plan. Watch for more public reaction from electeds from both sides of the aisle.
"The Joint Forces Command has been in operation since 1947 and continues to serve as a major employer of Virginians. As one of 10 full combatant commands, the Joint Forces Command employs nearly 5000 civilians and service members. This decision will cost good quality, high paying jobs for thousands of Virginians and could not come at a worse time. This decision appears to have been made in private with no recommendation or support in the recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and completed outside of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process. It appears as though this administration is cutting investments in national defense in order to pay for massive new social programs. I will continue to work with members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation to do all that we can to keep the Joint Forces Command open in Norfolk and Suffolk.”
More from Jeff Schapiro at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.