Officials optimistic about JFCOM

Published 10:33 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2011

City Council members were optimistic on Wednesday about what the future holds after the proposal to disestablish U.S. Joint Forces Command has become reality.

President Barack Obama signed off on the closure earlier this month. The command, which includes a facility in North Suffolk, is expected to shed about half its jobs. The other half will remain, although not in the form of a command. A detailed plan on how the closure will play out is expected to be released sometime in February.

“I think we’re going to be fine,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said during a council work session Wednesday. “I think, at the end of the day, we’ll probably be better.”

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The command, largely located in Norfolk and Suffolk, was tasked with helping to prepare the armed forces to fight jointly in the field. However, additional tasks were piled onto Joint Forces Command over the years, causing it to balloon into a much bigger command than originally intended.

“It morphed over the years,” Johnson said. “It was just a matter of putting it back in a position of what it was truly meant to be.”

“It was about looking for efficiencies,” City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn added.

Johnson said she and other city officials had met with JFCOM’s commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, a few days after the announcement and came away from the meeting with an optimistic outlook for the future.

“I think we all came out feeling very good about it,” Johnson said.

The city had been working on a threefold strategy to deal with the situation — reject the proposed closure, retain elements of the command in Suffolk if it was closed and replace jobs lost.

With the command’s downscaling now certain, city officials are concentrating on the second and third segments of the plan, Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said.

“We’re really concentrating our efforts on the retain, as well as the replace, strategy,” Hughes said.

Councilman Charles Brown praised city, state and federal elected leaders for their work in trying to keep the command open.

“You worked as a team,” he said. “You were thinking about what’s best for the region. You went beyond your call of duty to make positive things happen.”