USA — Joint Forces Command Works on Closure Plan

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2011 — A week after Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma offi­cial­ly autho­rized Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates to dis­solve U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand, the command’s staff is com­ing up with the best way to do it with­out com­pro­mis­ing crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties.

“We hope that the imple­men­ta­tion plan will be fin­ished with­in the next 30 to 45 days and approved so we can begin exe­cu­tion,” Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, who took the reins of Joint Forces Com­mand in Novem­ber, told reporters this week.

The com­mand could close with­in nine to 10 months, Odier­no said, but mak­ing all the asso­ci­at­ed changes is more like­ly to take 12 to 15 months. Elim­i­nat­ing the com­mand and shift­ing its essen­tial func­tions to oth­er com­mands will save the Defense Depart­ment about $400 mil­lion a year, he esti­mat­ed.

Although Oba­ma gave the offi­cial green light Jan. 6 to close the Nor­folk, Va.-based com­mand, the staff has been work­ing on its clo­sure plan for sev­er­al months, since Gates made the rec­om­men­da­tion in August.

“What we’ve done is attempt­ed to find the core capa­bil­i­ties that should be left behind in Joint Forces Com­mand,” Odier­no said. These include joint train­ing, con­cept devel­op­ment and doc­trine devel­op­ment, as well as pro­vid­ing troops for con­tin­gency mis­sions around the world, he said.

Twen­ty-four of the command’s 77 core func­tions are expect­ed to be elim­i­nat­ed, but Odier­no did­n’t spec­i­fy which ones.

While the staff ham­mers out details of the plan, it’s focus­ing on four dri­ving goals:
— Improve the effi­cien­cy and effec­tive­ness of all crit­i­cal func­tions that remain;
— Main­tain a strong col­lab­o­ra­tion with NATO’s Allied Com­mand Trans­for­ma­tion and multi­na­tion­al part­ners in the Hamp­ton Roads, Va., area;
— Sus­tain joint advo­ca­cy and progress made in pro­mot­ing joint­ness; and
— Pro­vide sup­port to the work force dur­ing the tran­si­tion.

Odier­no said he expects as many as half of the command’s almost 4,000 jobs in the Hamp­ton Roads area to be elim­i­nat­ed. The con­trac­tor force is expect­ed to take the biggest hit.

Odier­no said he hopes to iden­ti­fy which posi­tions will be affect­ed as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. The final plan being worked will iden­ti­fy “what the orga­ni­za­tion looks like [and] what posi­tions will remain,” he told reporters. “And then we will have to work through the details of who fills that posi­tion and who does­n’t, and who will have to look for work in oth­er places.”

In the mean­time, Odier­no praised the com­mit­ment of work­ers who con­tin­ue to con­tribute “great exper­tise and capa­bil­i­ties” to the com­mand despite all the unknowns.

“That’s why we want to get the deci­sion on the imple­men­ta­tion done, so we can start inform­ing peo­ple what is going to hap­pen to them,” he said.

As com­man­der of U.S. Forces Iraq before he assumed his present duties, Odier­no over­saw the draw­down of U.S. forces there to 50,000 and the tran­si­tion from com­bat to sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions on Sept. 1.

Although elim­i­nat­ing a com­mand has some sim­i­lar­i­ties, Odier­no said, cut­ting jobs — par­tic­u­lar­ly in today’s econ­o­my — weighs heav­i­ly on him.

“Things are tough these days. And now here I am, respon­si­ble for poten­tial­ly 1,900 peo­ple no longer being able to be employed, or what­ev­er the num­ber is here,” he told reporters. “That is quite a bur­den.”

For those whose jobs are elim­i­nat­ed, “we are going to do every­thing we can to pro­vide them assis­tance and help for them to move for­ward,” he said. “What we want to try to do is to ease that bur­den, and we’ll do that to the best of our abil­i­ty.”

Odier­no said he plans to set up a pro­gram to help affect­ed Defense Depart­ment civil­ian employ­ees find jobs in oth­er gov­ern­ment orga­ni­za­tions.

Elim­i­nat­ing Joint Forces Com­mand is part of Gates’ broad depart­men­twide effort to improve effi­cien­cy and reduce over­head so more defense dol­lars go direct­ly toward mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty. Odier­no said he expects belt-tight­en­ing ini­tia­tives to extend well beyond Joint Forces Com­mand. “There is a lot more com­ing,” he pre­dict­ed.

Inter­ject­ing a moment of lev­i­ty into the dis­cus­sion, he quipped, “I might be unem­ployed as well at the end of this.”

(Army Sgt. Josh LeCap­pelain is assigned to U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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