Federal wildland fire programs could be cut by $218M in January

If Congress allows the Budget Control Act of 2011, which has been called the “fiscal cliff”, to go into effect on January 2, 2013 the federal wildland fire programs will be cut by $218 million.

In addition, the FLAME wildfire suppression reserve fund will be cut by 8.2 percent, meaning it would not be funded at the 10-year average, greatly increasing the risk of funding shortfalls, as occurred in fiscal year 2012 which ended September 30. Such a shortfall would impact more than just the fire programs. With no carryover funds and a cut in the FLAME reserve fund, the wildland fire agencies in the Departments of Interior and Agriculture would need to take funds from other accounts to make up the firefighting shortfall.

Under the Budget Control Act, the sequestration would result in a 9.4 percent reduction in non-exempt defense discretionary funding and an 8.2 percent reduction in non-exempt nondefense discretionary funding. The sequestration would also impose cuts of 2.0 percent to Medicare, 7.6 percent to other non-exempt nondefense mandatory programs, and 10.0 percent to non-exempt defense mandatory programs.

Most of the federal wildland fire appropriations will be subject to an 8.2 percent reduction since they are considered “discretionary”.

A report, prepared by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), revealed the following cuts to wildland fire budgets that will be effective January 2, 2013; the numbers do not include the FLAME fire suppression accounts:

  • US Forest Service Wildland Fire Management: $172 million
  • Department of Interior Wildland Fire Management: $46 million

The OMB report said the major budget reductions were never intended to be implemented, and were supposed to to drive both political parties to reach a compromise on more sane budget cuts. The OMB said: “The Administration strongly believes that sequestration is bad policy, and that Congress can and should take action to avoid it by passing a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction package.”

At a meeting on forest health Friday in Denver, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “If Congress fails to act before the end of the year, the sequester that Congress has triggered will go into effect. That will result in every line item of virtually every aspect of USDA being cut by at least 8.2%, that’s every line item, no ability to transfer or prioritize the cuts.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Federal wildland fire programs could be cut by $218M in January”

  1. Weeelll kelly

    Things are a liiiiitle different now in 2012/13 than thety were in 1996 and JWT’s reign.

    Things like this never go away and like the air tanker program……..

    Congress AND the USFS think they plan ahead….yet LOOK where we are at currently….not much further ahead than we were 15-17 yrs ago

    You know….less airtankers, more acres on fire, less Rx burning due to current conditions, less money, more timber for the beetle to kill, more enviro wackos to hold up even the smallest timber cuts, less money, a large 218 M “Transparency” Act that is NOT much more so.

    YET the DoD has to face a number of large cuts in ITS programs….so whaddya suppose the USFS and other LMA’s ought to do in this current climate?
    Get more money based on what JWT said 17 yrs ago?? Not!

    IF DoD gets hit….then LMA’s ought to get an equal or nearly so hit on them also. Just the way life is. IF you can not live within your means…..then this just may force so called SMARTER thinking from the hallowed LMA halls. Where only the “best and brightest work.”

    My Forestry degree TAUGHT ME about forest management and responsibility and somehow I got passed over for may a perm job for those folks now in service. Some folks with the same degree everywhere seem to have forgotten that the US taxpayer and Congress is funding a majority of the projects and some may either cease to exist or been in a state of retrograde for a number of years to come!!!!

    Time to pay the piper………

  2. Jack Thomas recommended back in ’96 (after he’d retired as FS Chief) that we fund fire at the highest budget during the last ten years, rather than the average budget during the last ten years. And what to do with all the extra money if you have a slow year? Spend it on prevention, fuels management, Rx burning, training, equipment. “If you’re not fighting fire, you should be lighting fire,” he said.

  3. Sure would be nice if they offered an early retirement… before the train derails… I’d bet many folks with 25-30+ years of service would JUMP at the first opportunity to get out of the “puzzle palace” (aka Federal Civil Service). .. 🙂


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