Officials spin JFCOM news

Published 8:24 pm Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Local officials remained upbeat Wednesday about the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s looming shutdown, reiterating that Suffolk still has plenty to offer.

“We remain optimistic that Harbour View is, in fact, a node of technology,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “We’re still opening businesses in Harbour View every day.”

Johnson learned Wednesday morning that JFCOM’s Suffolk facilities will shed about a quarter of their jobs. She spoke with JFCOM commander Gen. Raymond T. Odierno by phone, she said.


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“It has been a long road,” she said during a press conference at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center. “The fear of the unknown is the worst.”

Suffolk officials have been working since August to fight the dismantling. The city formed a threefold “Reject, Retain, Replace” strategy in response to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recommendation to shut JFCOM down.

Now that the “retain” aspect of the strategy has largely worked, city officials will be working to “replace” the roughly 500 Suffolk jobs that will be lost, Johnson said.

“I believe we will backfill,” she said, adding that she would love for the displaced workers to find new jobs in Suffolk.

“These folks have a lot of skill sets to work with,” Johnson said, adding her thanks for the numerous elected officials who helped fight the closure.

Virginia’s congressional leaders split along party lines in their responses to the announcement. Democrats expressed pleasure that many of JFCOM’s functions will be retained in Hampton Roads, while Republicans continued to blast the secrecy that shrouded the decision-making process from the public eye.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th) said he joined other members of Congress in registering “strong concern” over the “secrecy, speed and stonewalling that has come to characterize Pentagon’s standard operating procedure.”

“I intend to continue closely scrutinizing and shedding light on what I believe to be a dismantling not just of one of our nation’s 10 combatant commands but a critical cornerstone of U.S. military strength,” Forbes added.

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, said he was pleased that the Pentagon “ultimately agreed with our strong business and national security arguments that JFCOM’s modeling and simulation investments and infrastructure provided a capability that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in the U.S. military today.”

Governor Bob McDonnell said he is disappointed in the final decision, but added he believes the worst-case scenario was avoided.