WASHINGTON, DC Feb. 20, 2015 – Following news reports that the Air Force is proceeding with its plans to dismantle the 440th Airlift Wing (AW) at Fort Bragg in violation of a legal mandate to first notify Congress, Senator Tillis raised his objections to such efforts in a letter to Air Force Secretary Debra Lee James, asking her to clarify the extent to which the Air Force has prematurely reduced the mission of the 440th AW.
Tillis highlighted the fact the that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2015 requires the Air Force to issue a report to Congress on the future C-130 force structure and give Congress sixty days to respond to the report’s recommendations. However, the Air Force never delivered the report to Congress, which was due in January, even though it is now implementing its plan to dismantle the 440th AW by removing airmen and even holding an all hands meeting to assist airmen in finding other jobs, contrary to what the law requires.
Earlier this month, Tillis publicly raised the issue of the 440th AW during Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. As Tillis noted in his letter to Secretary James, Dr. Carter responded by committing to a sit-down meeting with Tillis and other members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation to discuss the future of the 440th AW and other elements of the Air Force’s future C-130 force structure plans.
“Prior to his confirmation I had a lengthy discussion with Secretary Carter about the future of the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Army Airfield,” wrote Senator Tillis. “I also raised the issue publicly with the Secretary during his hearing. He publicly committed to look into the matter and sit down and discuss the 440th‘s future with me. With that in mind I am distressed that in spite of Secretary Carter’s commitment, the Air Force leadership is proceeding to this matter before he has even had time to fulfill his public assurance.”
In the letter, Tillis also raised concerns that the deactivation of the 440th AW would be a tactical and strategic mistake that negatively impacts America’s rapid reaction and Special Forces during national emergencies.
“It essentially takes the ‘air’ out of ‘airborne,’” wrote Senator Tillis. “The removal of the 440th AW at Pope Army Airfield creates unreasonable risks to the readiness of these critical airborne units, many of which must be prepared to respond to a range of contingencies on short notice. Moreover, the anticipated deactivation of the 440th AW would come at a time when the nation is facing growing uncertainty abroad that could require a military response—a response that only forces at Fort Bragg can provide.”