WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) delivered a Senate floor speech to provide an update on the Pentagon’s failure to meet the Army’s paratrooper training requirements at Fort Bragg.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced it would be dismantling the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Airfield, claiming that it would be more cost effective to fly in planes from other parts of the country to serve the XVIII Airborne Corps and would not compromise the Army’s training and readiness.
However, the Air Force has subsequently fallen woefully short of fulfilling the Army’s training requirements for paratrooper jumps. The Air Force only fulfilled 61% of the Army’s required number of jumps in March of 2016, one month after failing to meet its requirements in February. The March numbers were 1,300 jumps below that of February. The Army had to augment the lack of paratroop support by having an additional 375 jumps from Army helicopters.
The XVIII Airborne Corps has been clear that it requires 10,000 parachute jumps a month to be proficient. Army regulations state that 8,000 jumps a month are the minimum to keep the Sky Dragons and the All American Division current. The Air Force has failed to meet the 8,000 chute minimum, much less the 10,000 jump requirement Fort Bragg says it must have.
Parachute Jumps at Fort Bragg – March 2016
% of Required
The inadequate number of jumps are illuminating considering that Fort Bragg had outstanding flying weather during the first three months of the year, raising concerns over how much further the Air Force will fall short of the Army’s requirements during the thunderstorm season of summer.
Senator Tillis has been leading the effort with the North Carolina Congressional delegation to protect the C-130H presence at Fort Bragg and ultimately ensure that the Army’s training requirements are being met. During his speech, Senator Tillis stated he will be working with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain to push the Pentagon to answer when they expect to meet the training needs of the Global Response Force.
Tillis on the Pentagon’s strategically flawed decision to dismantle the 440th Airlift Wing:
“In the 15 months that I have had the privilege to represent North Carolina in the Senate, I’ve made the readiness of the XVIII Airborne one of my top priorities. In fact, you'd think it would be everybody's top priority. But I've watched budget cutters in the Air Force slowly chip away at the abilities of commanders at Fort Bragg to adequately train their paratroopers at Pope Army Airfield. This year the Air Force began dismantling the one Air Force tactical unit at Pope, the 440th Airlift Wing, capable of providing daily and ad hoc support for Fort Bragg soldiers. I said at the time that the removal of the 440th created unreasonable risk to the readiness of critical airborne units. They must be prepared to respond to a range of contingencies in very short time frames. I pointed out repeatedly that the deactivation of the 440th comes at a time when the nation is facing growing uncertainty and increasing threats abroad that could require a military response, and it's a response that only forces at Fort Bragg can fulfill.” [WATCH HERE]
Tillis on the Pentagon “suspending disbelief” to justify its decision:
“Air Force leadership stated that after any deactivation of the 440th, out-of-state aircraft would support all airlift requirements for Fort Bragg units at Pope. The Air Force asked me to suspend disbelief. They told me to accept that it is more cost effective for units to fly from Little Rock, Arkansas, or McChord Air Force Base in Washington State rather than have planes stationed at Fort Bragg. I did my best to ensure that the Air Force understood what the Army’s requirements were and I promised them that if they moved the 440th I would be monitoring their ability to meet requirements for as long as I’m in the U.S. Senate.” [WATCH HERE]
Tillis keeping the pressure on the Pentagon to meet the Army’s training requirements:
“I hope the Air Force knows that I have their back as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. But, in this case, this is about fulfilling the Army’s requirements. This is about having their back. This is about making sure that the men and women who will be asked at a moment’s notice to assemble on the Green Ramp at Pope Army Airfield and to go wherever they must to defend freedom are at their highest state of readiness. The performance to this point suggests that the Air Force is failing its customer service commitment for the Army. No business in America would survive if the supplier dictates to the customer how and when they’re going to get their product. But that’s exactly what’s happening with the Air Force’s relationship with the Army, and they’re failing. I will ask Senator McCain to inquire as to when the Air Force expects to meet the needs of the Global Response Force…If they can’t answer that question then it is time for us to consider other options.” [WATCH HERE]