Lawmakers from Virginia vow to fight Defense Department cuts

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 9, 2010; 6:00 AM

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and members of Virginia's congressional delegation vowed Thursday to fight Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's decisions to shutter the Joint Forces Command, a military installation in Hampton Roads, and to slash the Pentagon's military contracting budget by 10 percent a year for the next three years.

"The decision by Secretary Gates . . . is one that is very shortsighted and is one that has not gone about anywhere near the documentation that would be needed in order to make a colossal change of this kind," said McDonnell (R). "I think the concern most of us have is that this was done in a very hasty way with no demonstrable savings to the United States or to the Department of Defense."

At the first meeting of McDonnell's statewide military commission, members focused on Gates's Aug. 9 decisions, which McDonnell said could cost Virginia thousands of jobs and have a devastating impact on the economy. The meeting, which took place at the state Capitol, was attended by Reps. Gerald E. Connolly (D), Glenn Nye (D), Robert C. Scott (D) and J. Randy Forbes (R), and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R). Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) participated by phone.

The Defense Department met Wednesday with representatives of McDonnell's office and the congressional delegation, but Virginia officials left frustrated after hearing that Gates had made a "philosophical" decision to close the Joint Forces Command rather than one based on data.

"The secretary's decisions regarding these efficiencies initiatives were based on compelling advice and analysis from senior officials within [the Department of Defense], which showed that savings could be achieved through eliminating redundancies in overhead," Defense Department spokeswoman Kathleen Kesler said.

Defense officials did not provide any documentation to justify the reasons for the closing of the Joint Forces Command or for cutting the contracting budget, the congressman said.

"The briefing they had was absolutely nothing. They told us they had no analysis going in," Forbes said. "If you don't know before you make the decision what the savings are, it is just appalling you would do something like this."

McDonnell and the lawmakers said they have not been told when President Obama or other federal officials would act on Gates's recommendation. McDonnell has written to Obama, and Scott said he spoke to the president recently in New Orleans, but neither has received a response.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the cuts, but it has not been scheduled. A meeting of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has been set for Sept. 29.

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