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Amendment to protect Fort Bragg's 440th defeated in House committee

More than 1,000 paratroopers participated in the 2008 Randy Oler Toy Drop on Fort Bragg, N.C., which helped distribute holiday gifts to children in the Fayetteville community. The event was hosted by the 82nd Airborne and supported by two C-130 aircraft from the 440th Airlift Wing.

Proponents of Fort Bragg's 440th Airlift Wing took another hit Tuesday, when the House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment meant to protect the unit.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. David Price, D-N.C., was defeated during a voice vote after being opposed by senior Republicans during the markup of the 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, according to Price's office.

Price, whose district includes Fayetteville, serves on the appropriations committee. He had hoped to block the military from using any defense dollars to "inactivate, relocate, or otherwise disrupt the mission, personnel, or aircraft," of the 440th Airlift Wing.

The one-star Air Force Reserve command provides about a quarter of all airlifts on Fort Bragg, which is billed as the home of the Airborne. It is the only Air Force unit with planes on post.

The 440th, which was flies C-130H model cargo planes, had been set to receive the newer J model planes.

But earlier this year, Air Force officials revealed the unit was on the chopping block as the service sought ways to cut its budget.

Officials said support for airborne operations on Fort Bragg would instead come from off post units.

"I am disappointed that my amendment to sustain the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg did not receive the support it needed, particularly among my Republican colleagues on the Committee," Price said in a statement. "After meeting with military personnel at Fort Bragg and Pope Field, hearing from countless constituents and business leaders in the Cumberland County community, and reviewing the earlier recommendations of the Air Force Intra-Theater Airlift Working Group, I am more convinced than ever that the 440th is an indispensable element of the training and rapid deployment capability of our Airborne and Special Operations assets."

The defeated amendment is the latest blow to efforts to save the 440th.

While community and business leaders have rallied behind the unit, little has changed according to officials, and the unit is still set to be inactivated later this year.

An earlier amendment proposed to the National Defense Authorization Act by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) would have forbid the inactivation, but did not make it into the House version of the bill.

A separate amendment by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) that would halt all movements of C-130 cargo planes was approved in a committee. That amendment would at worst delay the inactivation of the unit, which has an estimated 1,200 airmen and a $77 million economic impact on the area.

Price said the 440th provides one-third of all airlifts for Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division and said the unit was a central part of the 2010 response to the Haiti earthquake.

He said the Air Force decision overlooks the nearly $60 million investments made to Pope Field to prepare for the C-130J planes.

"Deactivating the 440th and diverting aircraft to a facility hundreds of miles away would be a bad idea for training and readiness at Fort Bragg, and for our airborne capabilities in general," he said.

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