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National President Dougan: "Funding for Wildfire Suppression is a Problem."

Friday, June 6, 2014
 

For the full release, click here.
For NFFE President Dougan's written testimony submitted, click here.


Washington, D.C. – Today, William R. Dougan, National President of the National Federation of Federal Employees, the oldest federal employee union representing 110,000 federal workers throughout the U.S., testified before the US Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations & the District of Columbia regarding the resources and training available to federal wildland firefighters. Highlights of the testimony included:

“The USDA Inspector General issued a report in 2010 that predicted future shortages of qualified firefighters in the Forest Service. Too few were being trained to replace those retiring. That prediction is now coming to fruition, and it is a major problem. Many federal firefighters begin their careers on temporary appointments. Many return year after year, acquiring valuable training and experience.  However, firefighters looking to advance their careers face a critical barrier. Current regulations do not credit their service, regardless of how long, as qualifying for acquiring ‘competitive status.’ Because of this barrier to career advancement, many skilled firefighters eventually leave, taking their valuable skills with them,” Dougan said.

“Wildland firefighting agencies have done tremendous work to improve interagency cooperation.  The development of a consistent certification and training system, administered by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, is an outstanding achievement. Our union is proud to be a partner in the Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program, which we hope will take consistency in training to the next level.  Unfortunately, this program has been under-utilized in our view,” Dougan said.

“Funding for wildfire suppression is also a problem. The expense of fighting wildfires often exceeds the funds appropriated for wildfire suppression.  When this happens, agencies transfer funds from other programs into firefighting accounts to cover the shortfall.  This so-called ‘fire borrowing’ results in cancellations and delays in the agency’s on-the-ground program of work. Ironically, many of the cancelled projects are those designed to reduce the frequency and severity of catastrophic wildfires.  It’s ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ and it costs taxpayers more,” Dougan said.

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Established in 1917, the National Federation of Federal Employees is the oldest union representing civil service federal employees.  NFFE represents 110,000 federal employees in 35 departments and agencies government-wide, including the majority of federal wildland firefighters. NFFE is affiliated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO. For more information, go to www.nffe.org.

For the full release, click here.
For NFFE President Dougan's written testimony submitted, click here.

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