Webb Blasts Pentaqon
Virignia Senator Jim Webb has blasted military officials over the proposed elimination of the Joint Forces Command based in Hampton Roads. Thousands of jobs are on the line. That’s a major reason lawmakers want more information about the process and possible effects. Manuel Quinones reports from Washington.
Suffolk mayor Linda Johnson was in the audience at the hearing. She voices the anxiety and concern Virginia officials feel over the Pentagon proposal to scrap the Joint Forces Command.
Johnson: You know, we’re looking at a lot of jobs and a lot of ancillary businesses and things that are, well, it’s a fear of the unknown. So if you give us the data, give us the facts, you know, we will do what we have to do. But in the meantime, we’re simply in limbo and I think that’s a very unfair place to be.
Lawmakers from Virginia and elsewhere are also expressing concern. They generally agree with the Pentagon’s desire to cut costs and increase efficiency. But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin says Defense officials need to be more forthcoming with information.
Levin: I am disappointed that more than six weeks after the Secretary’s announcement of these measures, we have received only the roughest and most general information about the Department’s plans.
Senator Jim Webb expressed anger at the process.
Webb: On August the 9th, Secretary Lynn, you called me, 15 minutes before this decision was publicly announced. That’s not the way to conduct a review that has enormous implications to our defense and also to community interests. I believe in another sport it’s called stiff-arming.
Webb also accuses the military of not being transparent enough and not properly consulting with lawmakers.
Webb: We have no real information at this point that allows us to quantify the possible effects of this proposal in such areas as fiscal and local economic implications.
The military says the Joint Forces Command is no longer necessary, and scrapping it would save much-needed dollars. Webb asked Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn for proof and more information.
Webb: I am asking for basic data. Data you can provide in one day.
Lynn: We'll look into those questions and get you the data as soon as we can.
Military officials say the Joint Forces Command employs more than three thousand military and civilian personnel, plus about three thousand contractors. Its annual budget adds up to about a billion dollars. And the idea behind it was to promote unity and coordination. But Lynn says the military has made great progress in that area and says Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not take his decision lightly.
Lynn: This was not a business-case analysis, as some have described it. This was a military decision. The Secretary consulted with his closest military advisers on the rationale for the Joint Forces Command.
Webb: Just as an immediate reaction – there are no decisions of this magnitude that are military decisions. Not in the United States. There are military recommendations to the Secretary of Defense, who then makes a recommendation to the President. Those are essentially civilian decisions.
Pentagon leaders say they are committed to working with local communities to help them cope. Mayor Johnson says she also wants the Pentagon to be more open about its proposals and how they came about.
Johnson: The answer is give us information, give us a process, give us fairness and we’ll work with it.
Senator Webb is asking President Obama to hold off on implementing the recommendation. And Virginia lawmakers are pushing legislation that would prevent the elimination of the Joint Forces Command unless the Pentagon makes certain information available.
From Capitol News Connection, Manuel Quinones, WCVE News, Washington