Webb plans JFCOM legislation

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sen. Jim Webb plans to introduce legislation to require full justification for the proposed closure of the U.S. Joint Forces Command before any action is taken on the issue.

Webb, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Forces, made the announcement Wednesday.

“Today I have again called on the White House to refrain from making a final decision on the future of the U.S. Joint Forces Command until Congress has satisfactorily obtained a firm understanding of the process by which Secretary of Defense Gates arrived at his recommendation,” Webb said in a written statement. “A decision of this magnitude poses significant implications for joint training and the development of joint war-fighting capabilities that are essential for successful 21st-century combat operations.”

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The command, which is headquartered in Norfolk and has locations on the Peninsula and in Suffolk, employs more than 6,300 at its three locations, including more than 2,200 in Suffolk. Its duties include training war fighters to work jointly with those from other services and other countries in the field.

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission estimates about 10,800 jobs are directly or indirectly related to the command and those jobs generate about $600 million in personal income each year.

“Any proposal to close or realign the command should be guided by a clear process and analytical basis that everyone can understand,” Webb said.

The recommendation to close the command has been unclear from the start, officials say.

“There is inherent unfairness in the process,” Congressman Randy Forbes said at a meeting in August. “If the process is wrong, the result can be wrong. It seems to us very clearly that if you want to shut down a command, you would have to comply with BRAC.”

A secret memo sent in August from the then-leader of a military facilities alliance urged calls to the White House because a unilateral decision by President Barack Obama was said to be imminent.

That decision, however, still has not come nearly a month later. A meeting between elected leaders and Department of Defense officials yielded little new information, Forbes said last week.

Meanwhile, city leaders continue work on their three-pronged “reject, retain, replace” response to the proposed closure. The strategy aims to reject the proposed closure, retain critical elements of the command if it is closed or replace the command’s economic effects if it is moved altogether.

“Disestablishment analysis is still in the works” at the federal level, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said in a City Council work session Wednesday.

City leaders continue to participate in meetings on the issue whenever possible, Roberts added. He concurred with Forbes’ statement that little new information was shared in last week’s meeting.

Councilman Robert Barclay has been appointed as a liaison to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce task force on the propose closure.