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US Sen. Hagan challenges deactivation of Pope Field's 440th Reserve Airlift Wing

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has challenged top defense officials about the decision to deactivate Pope Field's 440th Reserve Airlift Wing.

Hagan questioned Lt. Gen. James Jackson, Chief of the Air Force Reserves, about the possible loss of the wing should the current federal budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 be approved, according to a release sent from the North Carolina Democrat's office today.

The proposal calls for the retirement of Pope's 12 C-130H cargo planes, which currently provide about 23 percent of the training flights for the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, and the move of the newer C-130Js to Little Rock Air Force Base, leaving the 440th's reserve airmen without a mission and Bragg without permanent planes.

Hagan, who serves on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, asked Lt. Gen. Jackson why the Fort Bragg units that would be affected by the deactivation weren't consulted about the potential loss.

"It is troubling that the Air Force planned to inactivate the 440th Air Wing without consulting with Army units at Fort Bragg or providing Congress with a full justification of their decision," Hagan said.

Hagan, who requested details about the decision to deactivate the 440th from Air Force officials last month, also asked why the Air Force hadn't presented a full cost analysis for the move.

The challenge follows a letter from Hagan to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on April 3 requesting that any action concerning the 440th be delayed until Congress can consider the budget proposal.

"I believe that Congress should have the opportunity to participate in decisions of this significance through the authorization process," Hagan said in the letter.

Hagan had previously requested a detailed explanation of how Air Force officials came to the decision to move the J models, which are now at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., to Little Rock rather than Fort Bragg, as was planned.

Air Force officials responded that they had not consulted Fort Bragg officials in advance of the budget proposal but that the move would save $116 million over the military's five-year plan.

While officials responded to Hagan's questions, the senator said she has not received a complete cost analysis and budget comparison.

Last month, four members of Congress from North Carolina sent a letter to the Department of Defense voicing their opposition to the 440th's deactivation.

Reps. Renee Ellmers, Richard Hudson, David Price and Mike McIntyre wrote the the letter, stating, "The 440th is a critical component in high-level training and timely deployment of both airborne and special operations located at Fort Bragg."

shambaughj@fayobserver.com

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