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House Panel Skeptical of JFCOM Closing, Pentagon Cuts

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.)
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.)

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, not only did representatives come out swinging against the proposed closing of the Joint Forces Command — one of the topics up for discussion — but they also expressed doubts about cutting the Pentagon’s budget at all.

“I think I speak for the overwhelming majority on this committee, regardless of party, when I tell you that I do not support cutting the defense budget at this time,” Committee Chair Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) said, according to a report on DoD Buzz.

It was a sentiment shared by Skelton’s Republican colleague.

“My first concern is where we find $20 billion a year in cuts—in the midst of two wars—without also cutting back on required weapons and services needed to meet the threats of today and tomorrow,” Ranking Minority Member Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said.

At issue in the battle over budget cuts announced by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, stands the future of the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

Skelton said JFCOM is essential for the smooth working and coordination of the military services, the original premise on which JFCOM was built when it was created in 1999. The closing of its doors would mean the loss of about 6,000 jobs including those of contractors.

But Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, echoing comments made before a mostly aggravated Senate panel Tuesday, said the command center had ballooned in size without a similar growth in mission.

“It was military rationale that caused the secretary to recommend the closure of JFCOM, not a business case,” he added.

But like Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) yesterday, representatives in the Virginia delegation were having none of it.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) questioned whether the Pentagon had adequately “provided the committee with all the written information and analysis that went into Gates’ decision.”

But despite the harsh words from lawmakers, so far, no members of the committee have said that they will stop JFCOM’s closing via legislation, Air Force Times reported.

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