For many years, I carpooled in DC with a person who worked a lot in fire. We had more than our share of conversations about air tankers…this was about 10-20 years ago. It seems like there’s always something going on with them. A good business to get into for young people who want to follow the same issue for a long time.
Anyway, I thought it was interesting that Senator Udall was complaining about Forest Service “red tape” in this article, when the delay seems to have been caused by appeals of contracting procedures. But there is an emergency clause, that Udall seems to be thinking should be invoked. I like the idea of agencies being able to cut through “red tape” of all kinds; but perhaps different mechanisms could be invoked for different kinds of “red tape” or procedural processes..
Here is a post by Bob Berwyn and below is an excerpt:
Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is urgin private contractors to respect the U.S. Forest Service’s upcoming decision to award contracts to several U.S. companies to supply next-generation air tankers.
More information on the air tanker contract issue is online at Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation, where a recent post indicates the Forest Service expects to finalize contracts in the next couple of months.
Protests and challenges of past contract awards have already delayed the Forest Service’s acquisition of seven next-generation air tankers. Additional protests could leave Colorado and the West without adequate tanker resources for the 2013 wildfire season, Udall said.
Federal contracting rules allow private companies not awarded government contracts to protest contracting decisions without penalty. Previous protests by unsuccessful bidders have already delayed the delivery of the next-generation air tankers by at least eight months. Federal agencies, however, are allowed to override a protest in cases where there are urgent and compelling circumstances.
“Air tankers are critical firefighting resources that can save lives and prevent small blazes from becoming catastrophic wildfires,” Udall said. “When I met with Northern Colorado firefighting and emergency-management officials this week, they all agreed that we need to ensure that Colorado and the Forest Service have the resources they need to fight fires now. If contractors continue to challenge agency decisions, I will urge the Forest Service to use its emergency authorities to override the challenges and finalize the tanker contracts as soon as possible. Colorado cannot wait.”