Military presence remains in North Suffolk

Published 10:17 pm Saturday, December 17, 2011

After the disestablishment of U.S. Joint Forces Command took place in August, Joint and Coalition Warfighting, a unit of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, moved into the former JFCOM site in North Suffolk. About 1,100 employees still are at the site.

When the disestablishment of U.S. Joint Forces Command was announced in the summer of 2010, it seemed like it could be the end of the military’s presence in North Suffolk.

But now that the dust has settled, the military still is very prevalent in the area, according to officials at the former JFCOM site.

Maj. Gen. Frederick Rudesheim is the deputy director of J7 of Joint and Coalition Warfighting, which is the Joint Chiefs of Staff unit that moved in the largest building at the former JFCOM site. He said even though JFCOM is no more, many of its primary tasks are still being completed at the site.

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“The military presence (in North Suffolk), by and large, has not changed,” he said.

After the disestablishment, which took place in August, JCW took over many of the functions JFCOM performed before.

Rudesheim said the organization’s main tasks include forming development, coming up with solutions and developing doctrine for the joint forces, all of the U.S. military branches, in order to meet one goal.

“There’s only one output, and everything feeds on output,” he said. “You’re doing it for a purpose, and that purpose is to train a better warfighter.”

While it was projected thousands might lose their jobs in the wake of the disestablishment, Rudesheim said, most of the military and government services positions were simply transitioned to JCW.

However, the contract workers were more affected.

He said about 80 percent of the contracts JFCOM had were not extended, which meant the workers who were with the contracted companies were no longer needed.

But Rudesheim said the end of the contracts does not necessarily mean the workers lost their jobs.

In April, the USJFCOM Workforce Transition and Business Development Center opened to help workers displaced by the disestablishment.

Rudesheim said the center has seen fewer people using the center than expected.

Currently, he said, the site in North Suffolk has about 1,100 employees, some of which were transferred from Norfolk after JFCOM’s disestablishment.

Another one of the changes that took place as JCW replaced JFCOM was a reorganization geared at making the group more effective, Rudesheim said.

“We had to do business in a different way,” he said.

While the things JCW does as an organization are similar to what JFCOM did, Rudesheim said, the group has tried to better connect the three main areas of focus and relate them to each other.

For example, he said, if the group is developing a training session for soldiers in Africa, they look for aspects that can be used in European settings.

“We are constantly looking for synergies,” Rudesheim said. “What we do now as Joint and Coalition Warfighting is organized differently.”

But J7 isn’t the only group using the former JFCOM site.

In the same building as J7, the J8 C4 Assessments Development unit has about 100 workers.

Col. Jenks Reid, who is in charge of J8, said the main mission of J8 is to improve the communication systems used by the different branches of the military.

The group’s tasks include making civilian communication devices, such as smart phones, military compatible and ensuring the different branches’ communication systems work together.

Additionally, the group assesses different communication devices to see if they are ready to be tested for field use.

“We make sure systems are right before they go in for tests,” Reid said.

Reid said the J8 budget was cut in half after the disestablishment, but almost everything else stayed the same.

“Our mission didn’t change,” he said.

Additionally, Rudesheim said, many things remain the same for J7, including the group’s use of the modeling and simulation tools located close by.

“Our amount and effort of ‘modsim’ is essentially the same as it was before the disestablishment,” he said.

However, he said, under JFCOM, most of the modeling and simulation work was used by J9, another organization with the unit, but now J7 is utilizing it more.

Rudesheim said the former JFCOM buildings are great sites have a lot to offer military organizations, specifically a number of training labs, called battle rooms, and specialized flooring that holds the miles of wiring the building uses.

“The IT infrastructure is an incredible benefit,” he said.

While many of the men and women at the former JFCOM site never left, the former J9 building will be getting new occupants soon enough.

The U.S. Navy has plans to move some of its cyber commands to North Suffolk, according to a Navy spokesman.
“We remain committed to relocating our cyber commands to Suffolk in order to take advantage of the state of the art facilities,” the spokesman said. “Design planning is currently in progress to ensure we efficiently assign the relocating commands into the buildings, and that we transition the required information technology systems from Little Creek to Suffolk in an orderly fashion.”

Rudesheim said JCW still has some workers in the J9 building, but they have to be out by March to make room for the Navy.

However, the former JTECH building is not being used.

After the disestablishment, Rudesheim said, he is most proud the group managed to have a smooth transition.

“We managed to go through the whole process without shutting down one day.”