Pentagon hearing gives senators chance to question sweeping cuts

Senators next week will finally get the chance to publicly quiz Defense Department officials about a sweeping initiative to find $100 billion in savings during the next five years.

As part of that initiative, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced this summer that he would be seeking to cut scores of senior military and contractor positions and to eliminate the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

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JFCOM’s closure has inflamed the Virginia delegation, which has been contesting the decision and trying to get answers from the Pentagon about what is behind the decision.

Now, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) will get the chance to publicly grill three of Gates’s lieutenants about the closure: Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn, acquisition chief Ashton Carter and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright. All of the officials will testify Tuesday morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The hearing will not deal solely with JFCOM, but with the overall Pentagon efficiency initiative, which will be reflected in earnest once the Defense Department submits its fiscal 2012 budget request to Congress in February.

The House Armed Services Committee will get a stab at the efficiency initiative the next day. Several members from Virginia serve on that panel, including Glenn Nye (D), Randy Forbes (R) and Rob Wittman (R).

Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) also plans to unveil a bill he is co-sponsoring with Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) that seeks to overhaul interagency national-security coordination. His press office calls the bill the largest reform since the 2004 reorganization of the intelligence community.

On Friday, the Army will hold an industry day to discuss its high-profile ground combat vehicle program. The briefing will take place in Dearborn, Mich., close to the Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), which is responsible for the new ground vehicle contract.

The Army announced in late August that it will start its competition for a new ground combat vehicle from scratch.

The service canceled its request for bid proposals and is expected to issue a new one within weeks. The Army was already in the process of selecting the winners for the new ground combat vehicle program. The Army was expected to make an announcement on its selection at the end of September or the beginning of October, but now the service is rethinking its requirements for the new vehicle.

Starting over means the selection decision will slip by about six months. All of the companies interested in the contract would have to resubmit bids.

Therefore, the event in Michigan is intended to “familiarize industry partners” on the requirement changes for the new combat vehicle. The Army will not issue a solicitation for bids before the industry day and will not issue a draft solicitation at the event.