Senators look at jobs and money in push to bring AFRICOM to Hampton Roads

Posted at 6:40 PM, Sep 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-12 18:40:51-04

Thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake if the Pentagon's Africa command relocates from Germany to the U.S., possibly to Hampton Roads.

There could be 4,300 new jobs and up to $450 million dollars pouring into the local economy. There could also be a savings of 70 million dollars a year in the Defense Department's budget.

“I feel like I've been rope-a-doped by the Pentagon,” said Senator Mark Warner, who feels that all of those benefits could have come to Hampton Roads, if only the Defense Department had listened to him three years ago.

That was the first time he asked for the military’s Africa Command Headquarters to take over space that Joint Forces Command left in Suffolk.

Instead, they stayed in Germany.

“Bring those jobs back home, save money, and help make the case that the Pentagon can be a good fiscal steward of our tax dollars,” said Sen. Warner.

According to a GAO report released this week, the Defense Department didn't even consider cost or economic benefit in their equation, only choosing to stay in Germany after AFRICOM's former commander deemed it "more operationally effective."

“I don’t accept the idea that operational efficiency should trump savings to the taxpayer,” said Sen. Warner.

The GAO is now urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider moving AFRICOM's headquarters to the U.S., and Senator Warner, along with Senator Tim Kaine, are pushing for that command to be based right here in Hampton Roads—to take advantage of working with NATO and other commands already based here.

“If we can do the right thing about defending the nation, doing it better because of the synergies in Hampton Roads, and save money by doing it and create jobs, it’s a win-win for everybody,” said Sen. Kaine.