Jun 4 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) that will not only save, but increase the C-130 presence at Fort Bragg’s Pope Airfield.

The amendment is a direct answer to the Department of Defense and Air Force’s strategically-flawed plan to completely dismantle the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Airfield, the busiest airfield in the world for the performance of training using tactical aircraft. Completely removing all C-130H aircraft from Fort Bragg would create unnecessary risks to the readiness of airborne units that are critical to our national security, essentially taking the “air” out of “airborne.”

Tillis’ amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), will effectively relocate nine previously upgraded C-130H aircraft to Pope Airfield at Fort Bragg to directly support the daily training and contingency requirements of the XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division and the United States Army Special Operations Command. The nine upgraded C-130Hs would replace the six older C-130Hs presently stationed at Pope Airfield that the Air Force intends to permanently remove.

Tillis’ plan to save, increase, and improve the C-130H presence at Fort Bragg also makes strong fiscal sense. Despite spending $2.3 billion over the last several years to upgrade aircraft as part of the C-130 AMP (Avionics Modernization Program), the Air Force has made it clear it still intends to mothball the upgraded aircraft. Tillis’ plan makes use of five C-130H AMP equipped aircraft that would have been flown to the bone yard at a loss to taxpayers of an additional $300 million. Another four C-130Hs still to be upgraded with previously purchased AMP installation kits would also be transferred to Fort Bragg.

For months, Senator Tillis has been leading the fight to stop the Air Force’s short-sighted decision to remove all the C-130Hs from Pope Airfield that support the nation’s global airborne response and special operations units. Tillis repeatedly pressured the Air Force and Pentagon to provide information and metrics regarding the airborne training requirements for Fort Bragg’s troops and the Air Force’s strategic justification for eliminating the support for such training by removing the C-130Hs from Pope Airfield.

Air Force officials have previously admitted that they did not consult with the Army and Fort Bragg commanders before making their decision to deactivate the 440th Airlift Wing. Fort Bragg commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson publicly came out against the decision earlier this year, stating, “Of all places in the world, why would we take that capability away from Fort Bragg?”

Tillis’ amendment ensures that Fort Bragg will be able to not only keep, but increase its airborne training capability.

“I am pleased that my Senate colleagues and I found a solution that would not only save, but increase and improve the C-130H presence at Fort Bragg, effectively stopping the Air Force leadership’s short-sighted and strategically flawed plan to remove all C-130Hs from Pope Airfield,” said Senator Tillis. “Most importantly, this amendment ensures that the brave men and women of America’s global response force will continue to be trained, equipped, and ready to defend our nation at a moment’s notice.”