Mark Udall asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter today for an update on the government's efforts to modernize its aging tanker fleet. Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, also pressed Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley in a second letter to quickly repurpose military aircraft to fight wildfires.
"Last summer I led the fight to expedite the U.S. Forest Service's acquisition of several next generation tankers to supplement the Korean War-era aircraft that made up the firefighting fleet. However, I have recently learned that these new tankers are tangled in red tape," Udall said. "These delays are unacceptable, especially in light of forecasts that the 2013 wildfire season could be even more severe than last year, which produced the two most destructive wildfires in Colorado history. The West cannot wait. That is why I am also urging the U.S. Air Force to quickly transfer several of its excess aircraft to the Forest Service so they can be repurposed for fighting wildfires. This is a pragmatic, cost-effective solution to strengthen Colorado's position ahead of the 2013 wildfire season."
Udall has been a leading voice for ensuring that Colorado and the West are prepared to face the threat of wildfire, including leading the charge last year to expedite the U.S. Forest Service's acquisition of several next-generation air tankers. Udall also has been the leading voice for studying past fires to improve federal efforts to fight and mitigate wildfires and joined with his colleagues to request a third-party review by the Government Accountability Office of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior's aerial firefighting program.
Udall also has worked to improve how the U.S. Forest Service, military and other agencies work together to fight fires. Immediately following the Waldo Canyon Fire, Udall brought together leaders from the U.S. Northern Command and the U.S. Forest Service to hold an after-action review.
Read Udall's letter to Secretary Vilsack by visiting http://www.scribd.com/doc/122625478/Letter-to-USDA-Sec-Tom-Vilsack-requesting-a-status-update-on-the-modernization-of-the-USFS-air-tanker-fleet
and his letter to Secretary Donley by visiting http://www.scribd.com/doc/122639327/Letter-to-Secretary-of-the-Air-Force-Michael-Donley-on-Aircraft-Transfer.