House approves measure to delay JFCOM closure
The House approved language Friday evening that would delay the Pentagon's planned closure of the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command, the latest salvo in the battle by Virginia's elected officials to forestall the move.
The amendment, which passed the House by voice vote, was attached to the continuing resolution currently being debated by the chamber which would fund the government from March 4 through Sept. 30. Authored by Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes (R), the amendment prohibits any money in the CR from being used "to take any action to effect or implement the disestablishment, closure, or realignment of the United States Joint Forces Command."
The CR is expected to pass the House late Friday night or Saturday morning, but it then must be approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama before it can become law.
In early January, Obama officially accepted Defense Secretary Robert Gates' proposal to shutter JFCOM, roughly five months after the Pentagon first unveiled the plan. The installation, which was established in 1999 for the purpose of helping the military services work together more effectively, employs roughly 6,000 people in the Hampton Roads region and has an annual budget of more than $800 million.
Concerned about the potential economic impact of the closure, Virginia's congressional delegation and Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) banded together across party lines to try to halt the closure. So far they have been unsuccessful, though Gates did announce in January that "roughly 50 percent of the capabilities under JFCOM will be kept and assigned to other organizations" in the region.
Even if the Forbes amendment becomes law, it would not necessarily prevent JFCOM's closure, just delay it for the seven-month life of the continuing resolution. But Virginia lawmakers have complained for months that the Pentagon did an inadequate job justifying its decision to shutter the installation, and Forbes made that point again Friday evening, tying the JFCOM move to other alleged instances where the Defense Department did not keep Congress adequately informed.
"That culture of secrecy and defiance ends today," Forbes said. "Members of Congress from across the country have made it clear that we will no longer allow the Department of Defense to exercise blatant disregard for Congress' oversight responsibilities. The amendment sends a clear message to the Department of Defense that we intend to exercise our constitutional oversight role prior to allowing actions that have, up until this point, an unknown effect on the future of our national security."
| February 18, 2011; 7:57 PM ET
Categories: Ben Pershing, Randy Forbes
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