The Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday heard testimony from three top Pentagon planners on the proposed closing of Joint Forces Command.
And, as expected, there were fireworks.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) led an irritated delegation of Virginia lawmakers, complaining about the lack of inclusion as the Pentagon made plans to shutter the command center in Norfolk, Va.
“I believe in another sport, it’s called ‘stiff-arming,'” Webb said, explaining he only found about the proposal to close JFCOM 15 minutes before it was announced to the public, The Washington Post reported.
JFCOM employs more than 3,000 people and an additional 3,000 contractors, and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced his decision to close the center in August as part of budget-cutting plans at the Pentagon.
DoD said the facility is no longer needed, but a bipartisan collection of Virginia lawmakers, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, contend the Pentagon has left congress out in the cold when it comes to explaining the decision.
Despite its growth, William Lynn, assistant secretary of defense, said JFCOM had not significantly expanded either its mission or responsibilities, The Post reported.
The command center “no longer justifies a four-star military command with a $1 billion budget,” he said according to Virginia Business online.
In one of the more fiery exchanges, Webb took DoD to task for failing to properly inform him or the public and for not sufficiently answering questions.
“Any proposal should be guided by a clear process, a sound analytical basis and compliance with applicable laws in a way everyone can understand it,” he said. “We heard today that the Pentagon spent several months reviewing proposals … we did not have access. We didn’t have an opportunity to provide input,” Virginia Business quoted Webb’s testimony.
The House Armed Services Committee will hold similar hearings today.