Senate review: Webb secures Armed Services Committee inquiry of JFCOM

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Before the first drawdowns can take place at U.S. Joint Forces Command, the Senate’s Armed Services Committee will weigh in on Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to close the agency.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has agreed to hold a full committee hearing on the recommendation to close the command.

Chairman Carl Levin told Sen. Jim Webb in a letter on Monday that he plans to schedule a hearing on all of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ proposed cost-cutting initiatives, which include a recommendation to jettison the command, which provides about 6,000 jobs, mostly in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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“I share the Secretary’s objectives of reducing ‘duplication, overhead and excess in the defense enterprise’ and instilling ‘a culture of savings and restraint’ across the Department of Defense,” Levin said in his letter. “At the same time, I agree that the far-reaching initiatives announced by the Secretary deserve close scrutiny from our Committee.”

Levin said he hopes to work with Sen. John McCain to schedule a hearing when the Senate reconvenes in September.

Webb applauded the move.

“The White House and the Secretary’s lack of prior consultation with Congress on his entire set of recommendations is deeply troubling,” Webb said in a statement. “The Department of Defense has declined for two weeks to provide any additional details regarding the decision to close JFCOM. The committee’s hearing will afford us the opportunity to receive answers to the many questions that, for whatever reason, Secretary Gates has declined to provide since he announced his initiatives.”

At the same time, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce added a letter to the pile destined for President Barack Obama’s desk regarding the proposed closure.

“It’s just to ensure that the president and his administration are fully aware of the implications of this decision in terms of its impact in Hampton Roads,” said Jack Hornbeck, president and CEO of the chamber.

Hornbeck, who signed the letter, asked that the proposed closure go through a formal Base Realignment and Closure process, which involves a thorough review and input from local stakeholders.

“It almost seems to be a unilateral, unique kind of decision,” Hornbeck said. “We’re merely calling that into question directly to the president.”

Hornbeck quoted estimated job-loss statistics that could result from the closure.

“It is conservatively estimated at this time that we may lose approximately 10,000 jobs in the region, from the small to medium contractors to the ‘mom and pop’ small businesses such as restaurants and day care providers that provide the support services for our servicemen,” Hornbeck wrote.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision making process and allow a dialogue with our state and federal leaders to insure that the JFCOM mission is not compromised and the BRAC law is properly adhered to.”