Pentagon Eyes Fire-Fighting Mission

NGAUS Washington Report

(April 9, 2013) An effort has begun in the Pentagon to move the fire-fighting mission now performed by the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve to Title 10 status under active-component command.

A memorandum making this recommendation was obtained by NGAUS. It was written by Todd M. Rosenblum, the acting assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs and addressed to the deputy defense secretary, who is Ashton Carter.

“The purpose of this memorandum is to get your approval to place [U.S. Air Force Reserve] and [Air National Guard] personnel in Title 10 . . . duty status for the conduct of aerial fire suppression operations using DoD C-130 aircraft equipped with the U.S. Forest Service-owned Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center on behalf of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

The memo, which is not dated, says this action “will establish a clear line of command authority from the Secretary of Defense to a Supported Combatant Commander for the conduct of this Federal mission.”

The entire memo is available here.

NGAUS opposes moving the MAFFS mission from the Guard.

In a blog posting, Mary Catherine Ott, the NGAUS legislative affairs manager for air and cyber programs, calls this a “mission grab” and says moving the MAFFS mission from Title 32 to Title 10 status “will create a risk in an already established and very successful response framework.”

She points out that the move would remove the mission from the control of governors, who would have a better awareness than the Pentagon of any wildfire situation in their states. It also adds to Guard concerns of more “mission grabs” by the active component using the justification of “clear lines of authority,” Ott says.

Three Guard units flying six aircraft equipped with the fire fighting gear currently perform the mission. The units are in California, North Carolina and Wyoming. One Reserve unit in Colorado performs the MAFFS mission.