Press Releases

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a bipartisan group of senators today sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to cut red tape that is slowing the transfer of excess 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. 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. 

The letter is cosigned by 10 other U.S. senators: Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Carper (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), John Barrasso (R-WY) Orin Hatch (R-UT), and Steve Daines (R-MT).

“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 department to acquire vehicles under the FFP program.”

A number of key national fire service organizations also praised the letter:

“The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) is very concerned about the DLA’s actions which threaten the continued existence of the FFP program,” said Chief John Sinclair, President and Chair of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “As wildland fires continue to claim more acreage and cost more to suppress each year, now is an exceptionally bad time to limit a program which helps fight back against this growing danger. The IAFC thanks Senator McCain for his continued leadership and dedication to strengthening the fire and emergency service.”

“The nation’s state and local wildfire response has been strong and effective thanks in large measure to the Department of Defense Firefighter Property Program,” said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester and President of the National Association of State Foresters. “Last year more than 80 percent of the nation’s wildfires were on state and private lands. State Foresters are very concerned about any additional and unneeded administrative burdens that would significantly curtail use of this critical program. We appreciate the leadership of Senator McCain and his colleagues who have signed onto a letter alerting Secretary James Mattis of this significant issue.”

“There is no practical reason to subject volunteer fire departments that obtain retired Department of Defense vehicles to heightened security and monitoring measures,” said Chair Kevin D. Quinn, National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). “We’re talking about cash-strapped agencies on the front lines of the fight against wildland fire being asked to wade through unnecessary red tape so they can get a flatbed truck to refurbish into a usable firefighting vehicle. Subjecting FFP vehicles to trade security controls will cause entire states to quit participating in the program and leave hundreds if not thousands of small, rural fire departments without access to desperately-needed equipment.”

The letter is below and 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. 

Sincerely,

John McCain

United States Senator

Jeff Flake

United States Senator

Lisa Murkowsi

United States Senator

Maria Cantwell

United States Senator

James M. Inhofe

United States Senator

James Lankford

United States Senator

Jon Tester

United States Senator

John Barrasso

United States Senator

Tom Carper

United States Senator

Orin Hatch

United States Senator

Steve Daines

United States Senator

###