WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) recently wrote to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter expressing concern over comments made by some Air Force senior leaders instructing commanders at Fort Bragg’s Pope Airfield to “open up the clearing house to undermine the personnel structure” of the 440th Airlift Wing.
“If these comments are accurate, then someone appears to be playing games with the Congress, but more importantly with the lives of people who defend us,” Tillis wrote to Carter. “Mr. Secretary, as I have said before, this is not about the Air Force budget, it is about supporting America’s most decorated warriors – the real tip of the spear.”
Tillis also called out Air Force leadership for its continued attempts to undermine the effectiveness of the 440th Airlift Wing despite of the clear wishes of Congress and the immeasurable value the 440th provides in training America’s rapid response forces.
“It is my understanding that the senior leadership of Fort Bragg pointed out that airborne and special operations need an indigenous C-130 capability at Pope Field and that even with the remainder of the 440th Air Wing still in place, the Air Force cannot provide XVIII Airborne Corps and USASOC with what they need to train,” wrote Senator Tillis. “What is more disturbing is the lengths to which the Air Force has gone to make the departure of the 440th a fait accompli, regardless of the wishes of the Congress, or more importantly the needs of the ‘supported’ force – our paratroopers.”
Senator Tillis has been leading the effort to save the 440th Airlift Wing, securing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 that requires the commanders of the XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division and the United States Army Special Operations Command to certify that the removal of C-130Hs from Fort Bragg's Pope Airfield will not adversely impact the daily training requirements of airborne and special operations units.
The Senate also passed an amendment, introduced by Senators Tillis and Richard Burr (R-NC), that would relocate nine previously upgraded C-130H aircraft to Pope Airfield in the event that the Air Force follows through on its plan to deactivate the 440th Airlift Wing.
A House-Senate conference committee is currently working on a final version of the defense authorization legislation.