Senate panel to hold hearing on Gates's decision to close Joint Forces Command

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s proposal to close the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) based in Virginia.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee’s chairman, granted the full committee hearing at the request of Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). The date for the hearing has yet to be set.

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Webb and several members of the Virginia-delegation are fighting Gates’s decision to close Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Va., as a part of the secretary’s effort to save billions of dollars within the Pentagon’s budget.

Webb, who chairs the committee’s subcommittee on military personnel matters, called on the Pentagon and White House to suspend any actions related to the sweeping savings initiative until Congress had “ample opportunity to review the full scope of the Secretary’s actions.”

Levin said in a letter to Webb this week that he would confer with Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), his panel’s ranking Republican, about the hearing when the Senate returns from recess in September.

“I share the Secretary’s objectives of reducing ‘duplication, overhead, and excess in the defense enterprise,’ and instilling ‘a culture of savings and restraint’ across the Department of Defense,” Levin wrote. “At the same time, I agree that the far-reaching initiatives announced by the Secretary deserve close scrutiny from our Committee.”

Webb, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Virginia Reps. Glenn Nye (D), Bobby Scott (D), Rob Wittman (R) and Randy Forbes (R) wrote to Gates on Aug. 13 urging him to conduct a review of JFCOM’s mission and activities without a predisposed intent to close the command.

“The Department of Defense has declined for two weeks to provide any additional details regarding the decision to close JFCOM,” Webb said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

JFCOM is one of 10 combat commands, which include Central Command, European Command and Africa Command. JFCOM was previously the U.S. Atlantic Command. With the Soviet submarine threat diminished at the end of the Cold War, the command in 1999 was turned into a training, concepts and experimentation combatant command that spans all armed services.