Suffolk’s JFCOM workforce to shrink

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, February 9, 2011

JFCOM closure: Gen. Raymond T. Odierno briefs members of the media on the disestablishment plan for U.S. Joint Forces Command. The Suffolk workforce will lose roughly 25 percent of its jobs.

Suffolk’s U.S. Joint Forces Command will retain about 1,450 employees and one building in the command’s disestablishment process, its commander announced Wednesday.

General Raymond T. Odierno said the command will shed roughly 51 percent of its 4,700 Virginia workers, about 3,900 of whom work in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“The changes are significant,” Odierno said. “This is a departure from past organizational design.”

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The Suffolk facilities will be reduced to one building from the three current buildings the command now occupies. About 1,450 employees out of the 1,900 to 2,000 will keep their current positions, Odierno said.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4) expressed disappointment in the decision to downscale the command.

“While Virginians will see the economic impact immediately, the strategic harm caused by the abandonment of military jointness will be a weakening agent to our military capabilities for decades,” Forbes said in a statement released Wednesday.

The command will be disestablished as a four-star combatant command by August, Odierno said. Employee moves will be accomplished by March 2012.

However, many of the critical functions of JFCOM will continue, Odierno said.

Employees learned of the changes at a Wednesday afternoon meeting. Nobody has received pink slips yet, though.

“We gave them an idea in general terms,” Odierno said. “The very specific detail is still being worked.”

A more specific plan will be developed in the next 30 to 60 days, he added.

“They understand what’s happening,” Odierno said of the workers. “I think they’re taking it very well, very professionally. Hopefully, they will continue to do that.”

Contractors working for JFCOM will fare the worst in the cuts. About 80 percent of contractors will be dismissed, Odierno said. Currently, about 2,500 contractors work for JFCOM throughout all of its locations.

“A lot of it is here in the Hampton Roads area,” Odierno said of the contractors.

Among military employees, about 300 out of 1,400 will receive orders to go elsewhere.

Critical functions will remain with the organization, particularly relating to modeling and simulation, Odierno said.

“These things are still critical, but we can do them in a more efficient, effective way,” Odierno said.

He also admitted what many had suspected — that he had been given the mandate to shut JFCOM down when he arrived in October.

After the disestablishment is complete, JFCOM will be under the command of a two-star general officer, who will be based in Hampton Roads, Odierno said.

Outlying areas of JFCOM, including facilities in Florida, Nevada and Germany, will be realigned and revert to the control of their respective services, he added.

Also Wednesday, state officials announced that Virginia will receive a $470,000 grant from the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment. The money will be used to establish a Workforce Transition Center in Suffolk’s Harbour View area, near JFCOM’s facilities, to help workers access resources and assistance available from local, state and federal governments and nonprofit organizations.

In August, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed JFCOM’s closure as part of a range of cost-cutting initiatives.

The JFCOM changes are expected to save about $400 million annually, Odierno said Wednesday.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-2) blasted the dismantling, calling the lack of transparency throughout the decision process “troubling.”

“The Pentagon thus far has failed to provide the detailed analysis and supporting documents that support the dismantling of JFCOM, making it impossible to determine if its dismantling is justified,” Rigell said. “I therefore continue to question the wisdom of a move of this magnitude because of these unknowns, including its impact on the essential mission that the command provides to our troops serving in harm’s way.”