Webb lifts holds over nominees

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has ended his standoff with the Pentagon over its decision to close a military command in his state — for now.

Webb on Thursday lifted his hold on the military nominations pending in the Senate after he received data from the Pentagon to substantiate Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s decision to close the U.S. Joint Forces Command based in Norfolk, Va.

Webb and the Virginia delegation have tussled with the Pentagon for more than three months over getting more information supporting the rationale for closing JFCOM. Webb, who is up for reelection in 2012, has accused senior Pentagon officials of “stiff-arming” lawmakers.


In protest, Webb placed a blanket hold on all military nominees in the pipeline. Now that he has received the data, he said he was lifting the hold.

“The data provides a historical breakdown of military and civilian staffing levels in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the headquarters of the military departments and unified combatant commands,” Webb said in a statement on Thursday.

JFCOM is one of the 10 combatant commands that includes Central Command, European Command and Africa Command. Webb wants to know why JFCOM was singled out for closure and whether the Pentagon has analyzed the functions of all commands and the growth in personnel in each since 9/11. 

“The data is highly relevant to our ability to reach our own conclusions in the fulfillment of our constitutional responsibility to assess a proposal that has significant ramifications not only in Virginia but throughout the country and also overseas,” Webb said. “We’re going to examine this data. We’re going to have follow-on questions.”

Separately, Webb on Thursday recommended that the Pentagon move the headquarters of the fledgling Africa Command to Norfolk. That regional command is now based in Stuttgart, Germany. Webb suggested the alternative at the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing of Gen. Carter Ham, who is slated to become the next head of Africom.

The Virginia delegation has been inflamed by the decision to close the JFCOM in their state, which employs about 6,000 people.

As part of an effort to save additional money and make the department more efficient, Gates on Aug. 9 said he would seek to close the U.S. Joint Forces Command and cut scores of senior military and contracting positions across the department.