SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The general of Norfolk-based U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) said Wednesday that thousands of workers will lose their jobs as the command is eliminated over the coming year.
Gen. Ray Odierno addressed JFCOM workers and the media at an afternoon meeting in Suffolk. The meeting came just over a month after President Barack Obama accepted the Pentagon's recommendation to close JFCOM.
At Wednesday's meeting, Odierno said Hampton Roads will lose about 2,300 jobs, or just under half the command's work force.
More than 5,700 people are employed by JFCOM according to its website. That includes military, civilians, and contractors.
The command's employees are now spread between 21 buildings in Hampton Roads, but after the command's closure they will occupy only four - three in Norfolk and one in Suffolk (the Joint Warfighting Center).
The Pentagon ordered JFCOM eliminated as part of far reaching budget cuts. The command, whose mission is to train troops from all military services to work together, has a budget of just under $1 billion, and its closure is expected to save about $430 million a year.
The command's elimination is expected to be completed by the end of August, although some personnel reassignments won't be completed until 2012.
"The changes are significant," Gen. Odierno said. "Going forward, we are not simply trimming down each staff element. We are making a major departure from past organization design, procedure and mindset to more effectively execute the core functions and sustain the jointness we've worked so hard to achieve in the past."
Odierno also said the number of contractors at JFCOM will drop from 2500 to just 500.
Officials in Virginia lobbied to retain some of the command's job functions, and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell applauded the reorganization plan.
Virginia will retain about 1,900 jobs between operations in Norfolk and Suffolk. Roughly 500 of the command's jobs will remain between Ft. Belvoir and the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center in northern Virginia.
"While Joint Forces Command will still close, we were successful in retaining 50 percent of the command's positions in the region," McDonnell said in a statement.
"I think the ability to grow and change is what will happen here," Suffolk Mayor Linda Johnson told WAVY News 10 after Gen. Odierno's meeting. "The buildings that are going to be empty will be backfilled. We're going to work diligently on that. We will get more businesses in here."
"The census just showed us as the fastest growing city in the state," Mayor Johnson added. " We're on the move and we're growing, so I don't think of it as much as a setback as this seems to be. You're going to see months down the road everything is going to be just fine. I truly believe that."
(Brock Vergakis of The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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