On Friday, I managed floor debate for consideration of S. 3261, legislation to allow the U.S. Forest Service to expedite contracts for new tanker aircraft to fight forest fires. Consideration of the bill came in response to the U.S. Forest Service's request to modernize its aging fleet of tanker planes used to battle wildfires. On June 3, 2012, a firefighting tanker crashed in Utah, killing two pilots. Following a separate tanker's emergency landing in Nevada that same day, the Forest Service had only 11 planes for firefighting operations, leaving only nine in operation. S. 3261 would allow the Forest Service to avoid a 30-day waiting period required by current law before entering into contracts for seven modern tankers to replace the equipment. The measure has now passed both chambers and is scheduled to be signed into law by President Obama.
The House Agriculture Committee, on which I serve as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry, has jurisdiction over the Forest Service.