Showdown at JFCOM Hearings?

Ashton Carter, DoD
Ashton Carter, DoD

When top Defense Department officials testify before Senate and House panels this week about the closing of the Joint Forces Command, Virginia lawmakers hope the hearings will shed light on what they have characterized as a murky process.

The Senate and House Armed Services Committees will hear testimony from a trio of high-ranking Pentagon officials Sept. 28 and Sept. 29. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will not be present.

The witnesses will include:  Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn; and Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who is also vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In August, Gates announced the plan to close JFCOM’s doors, which is predicted to spell the loss about 6,000 jobs. The plan also calls for cuts to defense contract spending by at least a third, according to a report in The Virginian-Pilot.

The plan was part of overall plans to seriously slash the Pentagon’s budget. But JFCOM’s closing has drawn the ire of Virginia’s Hampton Roads community and its representatives, who feel shut out of the process.

Critics of the plan, including Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), have decried what they call the secrecy surrounding the plans.

Webb filed an amendment to the defense authorization bill last week, which would have required the Secretary of Defense to provide full justification for the closing. But the bill remains stalled in Senate gridlock after the blow-up over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” last week.

Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Virginia Beach) introduced a similar proposal in the House.

The Daily Press reported that the Nye’s bill included “how the command’s roles would be reorganized, expected budget costs and savings and a list of alternates that were considered.”

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