Senate to hold hearing on DoD plans to axe JFCOM

Wednesday - 8/25/2010, 3:15pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Senate Armed Services Committee has agreed to hold a hearing Sept. 9 on the Defense Department's plan to close the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., and on the military's other efficiency initiatives.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), a member of the committee, requested the hearing.

This would be the second such meeting on Capitol Hill looking at the changes Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined Aug. 9.

In addition to closing JFCOM, Gates wants to cut spending on contractors 30 percent over three years, eliminate the DoD chief information officer's office, the Business Transformation Agency and freeze the insourcing initiative and the hiring of any new senior executives.

"I believe that further action by the President or Secretary Gates should be suspended until Congress has had ample opportunity to review the full scope of the Secretary's actions," Webb said in a press release.

"The White House and the Secretary's lack of prior consultation with Congress on his entire set of recommendations is deeply troubling. The Department of Defense has declined for two weeks to provide any additional details regarding the decision to close JFCOM. The committee's hearing will afford us the opportunity to receive answers to the many questions that, for whatever reason, Secretary Gates has declined to provide since he announced his initiatives."

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) also requested the Oversight and Government Reform Committee hold a hearing on DoD's plans. Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement, agreed to hold a hearing in September.

Several other members of Congress also are weighing in on DoD's decision.

Webb and other members of Congress wrote to Gates Aug. 13 expressing concern over the plan to close JFCOM and asked for a more complete review of the command's role. The lawmakers also said any recommendation to close JFCOM should be part of the Base Realignment and Closure process.

"I am concerned that the Secretary of Defense acted too hastily on the independent Pentagon advisory board's recommendation without time for proper consultation and analysis," Webb said in separate release soon after DoD announced its plans.

"I am also disappointed that the White House did not consult with members of the Virginia delegation prior to this announcement. Any decision of this magnitude should have followed BRAC process, which would have enabled appropriate participation by stakeholders as well as consideration of the impact on the local community. The Secretary of Defense claims JFCOM is not subject to the base realignment statutes because it is a work-force reduction rather than a base closure. However, I believe a strong legal case can be made that the base closure statutes are applicable because this involves a reduction of more than 1,000 civilian personnel."

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