End of the line

Published 10:12 pm Monday, August 1, 2011

U.S. Joint Forces Command will be disestablished during a special ceremony on Thursday. Nearly a year after Pentagon officials announced they would completely close the command, many staffers in Suffolk have learned they will keep their jobs, after all.

JFCOM closure set for Thursday

For U.S. Joint Forces Command, which counts Suffolk as one of its primary locations, the official end of the line comes on Thursday.

Gen. Ray Odierno, who was brought to Suffolk to help plan and carry out the transition from active to disestablished command, will conduct the ceremony. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will speak.

The program begins at 9 a.m. at the Joint and Coalition Warfighting Center in North Suffolk.


Email newsletter signup

The Department of Defense announced last year that it planned to close JFCOM entirely because of redundant programs and a need for cost savings. After nearly a year’s worth of negotiations between local, state and federal authorities and their elected counterparts, however, the closure turned to a break-up with portions of the facility and its mission left intact.

After disestablishment, about 1,450 people are expected to be employed in the Suffolk facility, down from about 2,200 at this time last year. They will consolidate into one of the three buildings that had housed the command’s Suffolk offices.

At the time of the closure announcement last August, the command had an operating budget of $703.9 million a year and a combined staff of more than 6,300 personnel among all of its facilities. The command’s personnel figure included military, civilian and contractor staffs. About half of that personnel number was to have been cut under the final disestablishment agreement.

JFCOM, one of 10 combatant commands in the country, was charged with geographic placement of U.S. forces, the development of future military doctrine and training forces to work jointly with each other and other nations in the field.

President Barack Obama approved the disestablishment of JFCOM in January. In April, Gen. Odierno approved reorganization plans that allowed civil servants in the area to be placed with new commands, rather than losing their jobs.

Even the effect of the changes on the Suffolk campus’ real estate have been muted by the arrangements made by negotiators in the months since the initial announcement.

According to Lt. Col. Mark McCann, deputy director of public affairs for JFCOM, the former JFCOM workers retained in Suffolk will join with employees of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to form a new unit that will occupy the Joint War Fighting Center.

The other two buildings could be attractive to the U.S. Navy, which officials say has expressed an interest in moving various cyber-commands to Suffolk within the next year or so.