DoD Invalidating the Constitutional Role of the National Guard?: MAFFS Mission Grab
The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) is a self-contained unit used for aerial firefighting. For the Air National Guard (ANG), the operator of six MAFFS C-130s, this means a critical partnership with the U.S. Forest Service in response to domestic emergencies – the core mission of the National Guard.
ANG C-130 crews who operate the MAFFS are highly experience and trained. They are capable of fast, aggressive initial response which is critical in minimizing the size and the expense of wildfires. These operations are conducted in Title 32d under the approval of Governor and command and control of the Adjutant General, who have the best eyes and ears on the ground.
But, the Department of Defense (DoD) wants to take this domestic mission out of the hands of the ANG – the constitutional force for domestic response – moving it from Title 32/State Active Duty to Title 10 status.
Why? Most likely because DoD is not a fan of states being in control. What other reason is there?
Changing the command relationship for MAFFS fire suppression efforts to Title 10 will create risk in an already established and very successful response framework. It will remove direct authority and control from the Governor, who has a much better awareness of the situation in their state, as opposed to the Secretary of Defense.
DoD drafted a memo that would direct the Secretary of the Air Force to have contingency plans if ANG personnel don't volunteer for Title 10 service. This action, if approved, could have second and third order effects that may create significant risks. These risks could include reduction in response times; reduction in the number of MAFFS crews available and ultimately, the potential transfer of assigned MAFF systems to the active component, opening the door to other mission poaching in the future.
This “mission grab” by the Active Air Force may only be the first, setting the stage for the rumored “death by 1,000 cuts” feared by the Guard. As we transition from over a decade of war overseas, the active component may start to look at domestic missions as their own, fundamentally undermining the National Guard’s construct and purpose.
NGAUS will continue to fight to ensure that the Guard maintains missions such as the MAFFS, so that the Nation has the best, most capable and experienced forces for domestic response.
- The 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the only Reserve unit. The Guard units include the145th AW in Charlotte, N.C.; the 146th AW in Channel Islands, Calif. and the 153rd AW in Cheyenne, Wyo. The 302nd AW has two of the MAFFS units and the Guard has two units each for a total of eight systems nationwide.