Defense Secretary Robert Gates is recommending the closure of US Joint Forces Command as a means to shed excess Pentagon overhead. It is one of the many efficiency initiatives that he unveiled during a Pentagon press briefing Monday. “Training joint forces, generating joint forces, creating joint doctrine, and experimenting with that doctrine are all valuable tasks. However, they do not necessarily require a separate four-star combatant command,” he said in justifying this move. He would assign JFCOM’s current functions to other organizations, including the Joint Staff. The Defense Business Board that advises Gates suggested this very idea back in July. The board considered JFCOM too bloated with contractors and redundant activities. Among Gates’ other muscle moves, he would eliminate the office of the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration. These changes would take effect in Fiscal 2012, if Congress goes along. (DOD release on efficiencies initiatives) (Gates transcript) (Obama statement) (Mullen statement) (JFCOM statement) (Cartwright-Hale-Fox transcript) (Skelton statement) (See also AFPS report by Jim Garamone.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.