Cantwell & Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge DOD to Accelerate Transfer of Excess Military Vehicles to Support Fire Departments
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter today to Defense Secretary James Mattis urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to reverse direction on implementing new red tape that would slow the transfer of excess federal vehicles and equipment to state and local fire departments.
In February 2017, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) issued new guidance for demilitarizing non-combat military vehicles deemed in excess to DOD. The new guidance also covered trucks that would normally be transferred to state and local firefighter departments through the DOD’s Firefighter Property (FFP) program. Local firefighting departments would be required to obtain special certificates, which necessitate collecting Social Security numbers and performing background checks on all of the firefighters affiliated with the agency, in order to continue to be eligible to receive excess equipment. Fire service organizations warn that the new guidance will make it more difficult for local departments to obtain the vehicles, and some departments say they will be forced to abandon the FFP program.
“Several states have reported that the burden associated with these new requirements will cause delays in vehicle transfers and force some states to terminate their participation in the FFP program altogether,” the senators wrote. “As the United States continues to struggle with growth in wildfires and suppression costs, now is a highly inopportune time to impede the abilities of local fire departments to acquire vehicles under the FFP program.”
The FFP is a program that helps local firefighting agencies obtain excess government vehicles and equipment that the local agencies could not otherwise afford. Over the last 10 years, $1.2 billion worth of equipment has been donated to state and local firefighting agencies through this program. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has partnered with Joint Base Lewis-McChord in carrying out this program, and there are over 130 other local firefighting departments in Washington that also qualify for this program.
“The IAFC thanks Senator Cantwell for her continued leadership in combating wildland fires across Washington and the United States. FFP is an important program which allows fire departments to have access to excess vehicles and fire trucks which ordinarily would have been out of their reach. These vehicles significantly improve the ability of fire departments to protect their communities. The IAFC appreciates the work of Senator Cantwell and others to ensure fire departments can continue accessing these important vehicles,” said Chief John Sinclair, the Fire Chief of the Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue Department and President and Chair of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
The letter is cosigned by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Carper (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), John Barrasso (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Steve Daines (R-MT).
The letter is below and online HERE.
Dear Secretary Mattis:
We write to request your assistance in a matter involving the transfer of excess firefighting vehicles under the Firefighter Property program (FFP).
As you know, thousands of state, local and volunteer firefighting agencies across the nation rely on FFP to acquire excess Department of Defense (DOD) vehicles and equipment that would otherwise be unaffordable. FFP vehicles are almost exclusively commercially available vehicles such as pickup trucks or non-combat support vehicles ranging from 2.5-ton and 5-ton trucks. After fire departments receive title, they normally retrofit these vehicles with water tanks, hoses, and other fire suppression equipment. Since 2006, over $1.2 billion worth of FFP equipment has been acquired for state and local government use.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) recently imposed Trade Security Control (TSC) requirements on non-combat support vehicles, elevating them from low-risk “Demil Code A” property to the high-security category of “Q6” property. This classification change will restrict the ability of fire departments to obtain title to FFP vehicles. In addition, firefighting agencies will be required to obtain end use certificates, which necessitate collecting Social Security numbers and performing background checks on individuals affiliated with the recipient firefighting agency. Several states have reported that the burden associated with these new requirements will cause delays in vehicle transfers and force some states to terminate their participation in the FFP program altogether.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates that local fire departments extinguish 97% of wildfire incidents on initial attack. As the United States continues to struggle with growth in wildfires and suppression costs, now is a highly inopportune time to impede the abilities of local fire department to acquire vehicles under the FFP program. We respectfully request that you examine the concerns raised by state and local fire agencies about the new TSC requirements and consider taking administrative action to address this issue so that firefighters are able to obtain the equipment they need.
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