U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today commented on a report released by the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission—which Romney secured in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—outlining a strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs through 2030. As climate change fuels longer and more intense wildfire seasons, aerial assets bring unique response capabilities to wildland fire suppression. The report reexamines existing approaches to aviation fleet procurement, mobilization, composition, and quantity in order to set aviation management on a new trajectory for the next decade and beyond.
“Passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law made it possible to bring together some of our nation’s top experts, including state and local stakeholders—like Utah’s own Kathy Holder and Bill Cox—to help us better improve strategies to prevent future wildfires from becoming catastrophic disasters in Utah and across the West,” Senator Romney said. “I am encouraged by the findings that the Commission has released, which outline how we can employ aviation resources to better equip wildland firefighters who are on the frontlines. I look forward to the hearing more from the Commission as they continue to develop solutions to prevent, manage, suppress, and recover from wildfires.”
Findings and recommendations outlined in the report include:
- The need for the development of new or updated aviation resource benchmarks and national procurement models and the need for greater coordination with partners in these efforts;
- Improvements to appropriations, contracting, staffing and interoperability to improve the use and availability of existing resources;
- Improvements and limitations to the military surplus process and equipment; and
- Additional considerations, including aviation resource use in beneficial fire and the emerging importance of Uncrewed Aerial Systems.
In developing these recommendations, the Commission sought to address several key themes: the need to develop an overarching, forward-looking aviation strategy that drives procurement, rather than letting aviation approaches become constrained by current practices; the need to invest in both technology and people to build an aviation fleet that meets long-term demand; and the need to take an inclusive approach to the range of functions aerial resources can serve as well as the range of entities that must be included in development of a national aviation strategy.
Negotiated by Senator Romney and his colleagues, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a once-in-a-generation investment which will address decades of neglect of our nation’s hard, physical infrastructure. In addition to establishing the commission, the legislation provides historic funding to address wildfire hazards, including $8.25 billion for a suite of programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks, detecting wildfires, instituting firefighter workforce reforms, and building more resilient infrastructure. More details on how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will deliver for Utah—including by rebuilding its roads, mitigating drought conditions, and fulfilling critical water needs can be found here.
Senator Romney, along with Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) and Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), first introduced the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act—bipartisan and bicameral legislation to establish a commission of federal and non-federal stakeholders to study and recommend fire prevention, mitigation, management, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands—in the summer of 2021. The legislation was later included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.