Firefighters Finally Given Equal Rights to Obtain Excess Defense Property

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) was successful in passing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2005 to grant firefighters the ability to review and obtain excess defense property at the same time as law enforcement, defense contractors and other defense-related organizations. This property may range from protective gear and computers, to hand tools and trucks.

Firefighting agencies would be permitted to screen the property through the Federal Excess Property Program (FEPP) administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The FEPP program is a well established and trusted means of distributing unwanted federal assets to the hands of fire departments across the country engaged in the suppression of forest fires.

“I commend Chairman Hunter for recognizing the tremendous value that America gains by placing discarded federal property that is still useful in the hands of those who need it most,” stated Weldon. “We are expecting another very bad fire season this year and this property will be extremely useful for our forest firefighters who tend to be based in rural and low-budget departments.”

Under the current screening structure, excess defense property is accumulated after a determination that it is not needed by the four branches of the service. This property is reviewed and picked by 12 organizations that include defense contractors, law enforcement, humanitarian assistance, civil air patrol and military-related organizations or associations. The remaining property is then available for review by any federal department or agency. The Weldon Amendment would permit firefighters to screen property in the first tier with the defense-related organizations.

Weldon first made this property available to firefighters in the FY 2001 National Defense Authorization Act. However, after the Department of Defense altered the screening process in April 2002, firefighters were pushed down to the last tier of property screening where there is usually little property of value for use for firefighting. This amendment is modeled after the Rural Fire Department Equipment Priority Act, H.R. 1311, introduced by Congressman Mike Ross (D-AR) to correct this mistake.

Congressman Weldon is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land, founder of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and a former fire chief from Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.

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