FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A flurry of discussion and activity aimed at saving the 440th Airlift Wing hasn't yet made any significant impact in saving the one-star command at Fort Bragg, according to the unit's leader.
In an email to 440th airmen and their families that was provided to The Fayetteville Observer by a third party, Brig. Gen. James P. Scanlan said there has been "very little change with regard to the inactivation proposal."
The update was the first by Scanlan in a month. It outlines recent developments, including a visit by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James and the chief of the Air Force Reserve, Lt. Gen. James Jackson.
"Air Force senior leadership views the inactivation proposal as the official 'program of record' and they continue to plan for inactivation of the (440th Airlift Wing)," Scanlan said. "However, both Secretary James and Lt. Gen. Jackson conceded that the Air Force cannot execute that program without congressional approval."
In recent weeks, supporters of the 440th received mixed results in Congress.
An amendment proposed by Rep. Renee Ellmers that would have forbid the inactivation did not make it into the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act. But a separate amendment by Sen. Kay Hagan 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.
The 440th Airlift Wing provides about a quarter of all airlifts on Fort Bragg, which is billed as the home of the airborne.
Scanlan said Air Force officials don't expect a final decision on congressional approval before November.
"As a result, all C-130 aircraft transfers are on hold and we continue to fly and support C-130H2 operations for the foreseeable future," he said.
Those operations are being balanced with personnel challenges.
Some in the 440th already have sought out other, more stable positions with other units. And the wing is trying to hire civilians into "mission critical" positions even as it prepares for possible inactivation.
Current policies call for the 440th Airlift Wing positions to be defunded by Dec. 5, Scanlan said.
"We continue to process all voluntary outbound personnel actions," he said, but a timeline for involuntary transfers has not been given.
"The bottom line (and most important thing to remember) — the Air Force and the Department of Defense have not changed their proposal to inactivate the (440th)," Scanlan said. "This proposal is supported by the president, the secretary of defense, the secretary of the Air Force and the entire chain of command.
"However, the inactivation cannot be effected without congressional approval," he said. "In the interim, we are in a waiting game. Not the answer anyone wants to hear, but the reality. All I can ask of you is that you remain focused, remain professional and continue to do your job to the best of your abilities. Thanks for all you do."