President Obama approved closing the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in Norfolk – an issue that's been thorn in the side of Virginia legislators for some time — but the pain is turning out to be much less than originally been feared.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who announced plans to eliminate JFCOM last August, now plans to re-tool the mission of the command, rename it, and trim its size by about half. The move is part of about $78 billion in cuts and $100 billion in cost-saving moves the Defense Department  is proposing.

Virginia legislators were outraged when Gates unveiled plans to eliminate the command and cut defense contract spending by 10 percent a year for three years as part of cost-saving measures for the Pentagon.

Their concerns were somewhat mollified after Gov. Bob McDonnell and others met with Gates in November, and were told that the cuts may be blunted.

“Thanks to the strong efforts and business arguments presented by Sen. [Mark] Warner and others in the bipartisan Virginia delegation, the Pentagon has reconsidered and revamped its original proposal,” Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Warner, said in an e-mail. “Now, Hampton Roads will keep about 3,000 of the 6,000 jobs associated with JFCOM, and maintain and perhaps even build upon its modeling and simulation functions in the region.”

Further, the Pentagon now plans to narrow the scope of cuts in defense contracting — a key underpinning of Nothern Virginia's economy — to service support contracts that bring private sector workers into DoD buildings. Those contracts are worth about $4.3 billion annually compared to the Defense Department’s entire $143 billion service contract budget.