Improving air support for wildfire management in the United States
Glickstein, Geoffrey L.
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The use of aviation in wildfire management is essential to combating a growing hazard across the United States, but the modern organizational framework employed by the federal government is faulty. Chief among the problems is the contract-based approach; with rampant inefficiencies, unsafe practices, and stagnant culture that resists innovation, the contracted structure has wasted billions of dollars and cost firefighters their lives. This study looks at three options to take over the aviation wildfire responsibilities—the active duty military, the National Guard, and a new DHS agency—in terms of the legal, societal, fiscal, and organizational implications of each alternative. The active duty option would sacrifice traditional military readiness for a wildfire mission; the new DHS agency would require far too great an expense in political capital and funding to get started, in the absence of a focusing event. The National Guard option offers the most practical and acceptable solution for politicians and the public to provide an improved aviation service. With unique flexibility to operate under state or federal control, the National Guard would bring professional military capabilities to their existing role in wildfire management.
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