Secretary Gates announced yesterday his intention to close Joint Forces Command and two civilian defense components, the Business Transformation Agency, and the Network Information Integration. He is to be commended for cutting overhead in his department as part of a broader spending reduction. But the combined effects of yesterday's announcement are miniscule.
Substantively, JFCOM is responsible for training joint forces and encouraging innovation. They undertake studies of lessons from operations to identify better ways of fighting. But it has underperformed its mandate. Too often, especially under Secretary Rumsfeld, JFCOM contributed little beyond breathless hand-waving about transformation or pushing concepts of questionable value, such as "effects based operations." And (as in the case of the early Millennium Challenge exercises and the Iraq War lessons learned study) JFCOM was often guilty of pulling its punches. To Secretary Gates's credit, he assigned leaders from the wars to head the command, first General Mattis and now General Odierno, to better align the command with the needs of force as it adapts to the future, not those of the present. But the joint force will survive and even prosper without JFCOM.