JFCOM closure could take 15 months

Published 7:56 pm Monday, January 10, 2011

Gen. Raymond Odierno briefs members of the media on the closure of U.S. Joint Forces Command in his Norfolk office on Monday.

A plan to disestablish U.S. Joint Forces Command should be complete in the next month to month and a half, but the entity will retain a presence in Suffolk.

About 1,900 local jobs — 50 percent of JFCOM’s total Hampton Roads workforce — will be eliminated.

General Ray Odierno, the commander of JFCOM, acknowledged he does not yet know many details of how the closure will happen. He has been tasked with developing a plan for the closure and submitting it to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

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“We’re working very closely here with the secretary in developing the implementation plan,” Odierno said Monday, speaking to media representatives in his Norfolk office.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama approved the formal disestablishment of JFCOM.

The command will shed about 50 percent of its 3,900-strong manpower in the Hampton Roads area, as well as about 30 percent of its functions. The reductions are expected to save roughly $400 million a year, Odierno said.

Gates recommended shuttering the command in August among a slate of cost-cutting measures. The command teaches America’s forces how to fight jointly with each other and with military from other nations.

Military personnel whose positions at JFCOM are eliminated will be offered other responsibilities or have the chance to apply for other positions, Odierno said. Department of Defense civilian employees and contractor employees will be on more shaky ground.

“We have mechanisms in place that will help them obtain other employment,” Odierno said of the DOD civilians.

Odierno said he is carrying “a huge burden” for the people who could lose their jobs.

“I know the unknown has been bothering people,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with how people have continued to do their jobs.”

Odierno had no details regarding whose employment will end, or when. He said the workforce and the public would be informed as soon as details are finalized.

Odierno said the functions that are being eliminated were add-on functions given to the command after it originated in 2000. Those functions were being duplicated elsewhere in the defense department, he said.

The leftovers will no longer be known as a command, Odierno said. However, they will continue core functions of JFCOM, including joint training, concept and doctrine development and providing forces to missions around the world.

Odierno estimated that the closure plan would take about a year to a 15 months to implement fully.

“We’re still going to have a very strong presence in Suffolk, but it will be reduced,” Odierno said.

He also said JFCOM hopes to continue its relationships with community partners such as Old Dominion University.

Odierno added that the remaining functions of the command would need modeling and simulation support, which is good news for some local contractors.

He could not yet give any details about the status of the Suffolk facilities. The buildings at a compound in North Suffolk off College Drive currently are leased.

Odierno has shut down military entities in the past. When he was a lieutenant colonel in the 1990s, he was tasked with shutting down an infantry division.

He said the defense department would need to be judicious as it scales back its workforce as a result of bringing troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“After Desert Storm, I think we probably went a little too far [with cuts],” he said. “It’s about recognizing what’s necessary to sustain as we move forward.”