The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) has released a new organizational model for Incident Management Teams (IMT), titled Evolving Incident Management: A Recommendation for the Future.
(Apparently they decided not to make a recommendation for the past.)
In light of smaller federal work forces, more state and local IMTs, and longer fire seasons, the NWCG recognized that the current workforce management and succession planning for wildfire response is not sustainable. The new plan, which refers to a “decrease in Federal capacity”, admits that one of the primary purposes of the new model is to help find a solution to the difficulty in filling positions on IMTs, in part due to the smaller work forces. This, in spite of the fact that the U.S. Forest Service routinely assures congressional panels and the public that the federal government has plenty of wildland fire suppression capability and the budgets proposed by the Administration for the land management agencies are sufficient for protecting the public lands.
Some of the recommended changes are very significant, such as combining the Type 1 and Type 2 IMTs into just one type of team, and reducing the total number of federally sponsored teams from 55 to 40.
The entire 51-page document can be found HERE. Below, in the bullets, are some of the highlights of the new system:
- Number of Teams. The target number of federally sponsored IMTs is 40.
- Typing of Teams. Merge all federally sponsored type 1 and type 2 teams into one type of IMT.
- NIMO teams.There [would continue to] be four National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) teams supervised and managed by the USDA Forest Service.
- Incident Complexity and Scalability. There are three response levels: Initial attack (type 4 and 5 incidents), extended attack (type 3 incidents managed by type 3 IMTs) and complex incidents managed by IMTs.
- State teams. IMTs sponsored by states would provide surge capacity at elevated geographic area and national preparedness levels under the recommended model.
- Team Management and Dispatching. Geographic area coordination centers would manage IMT rotations for their geographic area until the national preparedness level reaches 3. At preparedness level 3 and above the National Interagency Coordination Center coordinates the IMT rotation in consultation with the geographic area coordination centers.
- Team Funding. Each IMT would receive an established amount of support funding provided by the agencies in their home geographic area. Teams are provided with administrative staff support to support ICs with management of their team rosters and other logistical needs.
- Team Size and Configuration. IMTs are composed of 27 members and 14 trainees in the recommended organizational model. The IMTs are available in short team and long team configurations.
- Area Command. Short-term recommendations (2012–2015) include (1) maintaining four area command teams, and (2) formalizing the current management of the four area command teams as a pool of interchangeable personnel sufficient to staff four teams. Long-term recommendations (2016 and beyond) include transitioning area command teams to strategic management teams. This would more accurately reflect the changing demands for an oversight group to provide strategic planning, risk management, command, control, coordination, information management, and preparedness support. This transition would also be the source for innovative processes, procedures, and technology to support incident objectives.
- Performance and Accountability. All agency administrators in units with wildland fire programs would have a performance standard or element for fire management. Expectations for each agency’s level of participation should be developed based on their percent of wildland fire workload.
- Incentives. Incentives for participation should be a part of the implementation plan for the recommended organizational model. Disincentives should be identified and reduced or eliminated.
- Workforce Development. Develop a robust and coordinated succession planning system linking workforce development to staffing of IMTs.
The NWCG expects to implement the new model over the next five to ten years.
Several interesting facts showed up in the document, such as on page 22:
Although the number of IMTs has remained relatively stable since 2004, the composition of teams has changed. The Federal workforce has shrunk, especially in some parts of the country. For example, the USDA Forest Service workforce in Oregon and Washington has gone from 7,893 employees in 1990 to 3,630 employees in 2010. IMT make-up has shifted from Federal militia to a higher percentage of state, local government, and retired Federal (second career and AD) participation.
And these three charts:
The group that put together the analysis and recommendations was called the Incident Management Organizational Succession Planning Team (IMOSPT). The Liaison with the NWCG was Lyle Carlile of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The “Project Team” consisted of:
- Sue Husari, Chair, National Park Service
- Este Stifel, Bureau of Land Management
- Jim Peña, Forest Service
- Pete Anderson, National Association of State Foresters, Nevada
- Rex McKnight, Bureau of Land Management
- Tom Zimmerman, Forest Service
Other groups within the IMOSPT included Team Typing and Configuration, Incident Business and Staffing Team, Training Team, a Communications Liaison, and Communications and Project Support.