Op-Ed

Efforts to save 440th Airlift Wing finally get a lift

The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:

They may have snatched the 440th Airlift Wing from the jaws of deactivation. And they may also have forced the secretary of defense to stand up for what’s right, not what’s expedient.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved N.C. Sen. Thom Tillis’ amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that requires Fort Bragg commanders to approve the closure of the 440th before it can happen. Tillis’ measure says the 18th Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Special Operations Command all must certify that the loss of the Air Force Reserve wing won’t harm their training mission.

Earlier this year, former Corps commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson spoke out about the damage that the loss of the airlift wing will cause. Anderson said the Air Force decision to shut down the wing – without consulting the Army – was a “short-sighted and strategically flawed decision.”

Anderson has since been reassigned to the Pentagon, where he is the Army’s deputy chief of staff, overseeing operations and planning. It’s not likely that the promotion will change his mind. And last week, Fort Bragg’s only four-star general was named the Army’s next chief of staff. We trust Gen. Mark Milley’s voice will be added to Anderson’s in support of saving the 440th.

On Friday, there was more welcome news in Congress for supporters of the airlift wing. The House of Representatives unanimously approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act authored by Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn, barring the deactivation of the 440th until the secretary of defense certifies that it will have no impact on Fort Bragg soldiers’ readiness.

Given what we’ve heard from Fort Bragg’s former leader, we don’t see any way that Secretary Ash Carter can do that.

The military-funding bill has won strong, bipartisan support in both congressional armed-services committees, and it appears to have the votes it needs to clear Congress. It does face a threatened presidential veto, but we hope that’s political posturing by the commander in chief, who knows he needs a robust military as we face pressing global threats.

We’re hoping that the Ellmers and Tillis amendments stay in place throughout the defense budget’s journey to approval. Those global threats are a big deal at Fort Bragg, home of the nation’s military first responders. Training here can’t be anything less than the best, and the 440th is an integral part of that effort.

Tribune Content Agency

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