June 9, 2021 - WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth calling on the Air Force to expedite the retrofit of seven C-130s being transferred from the Coast Guard to California to use for fighting wildfires.
“We understand that there have been disruptions to the original schedule for transferring the seven C-130 air tankers to California resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, questions about the contract, and delays in conducting depot maintenance,” the senators wrote.
“Given the severe wildfire season anticipated now and in future years, we urge you to expedite the Air Force’s Congressionally-mandated retrofit of the aircraft.”
Also occurring on Tuesday:
- Senator Padilla secured a commitment from Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda D. Young during a Senate Budget Committee hearing to address the ongoing delays in transferring the C-130 air tankers to California to help fight wildfires. Video of the exchange is available here.
- Senator Feinstein questioned Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown on the aircraft delivery at a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. She received assurances that the Air Force would do everything possible to get the aircraft ready to fight fire in California as soon as possible. Video of the exchange is available here.
The full text today’s letter from Senators Padilla and Feinstein to Acting Air Force Secretary Roth follows:
June 8, 2021
Mr. John P. Roth
Acting Secretary of the Air Force
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Acting Secretary Roth,
We write to you today with concern regarding the ongoing delays in the transfer, modification, and delivery of seven Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft to the State of California for firefighting purposes, as required by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (Public Law 115-232). We ask that you provide an updated delivery schedule for these aircraft and a description of any remaining concerns about the modifications and timely delivery of the aircraft.
We understand that there have been disruptions to the original schedule for transferring the seven C-130 air tankers to California resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, questions about the contract, and delays in conducting depot maintenance. We are especially concerned with any potential design issues that could prevent the aircraft from obtaining a firefighting capability.
These delays are especially troubling because of the crucial role air assets play in fighting California wildfires. So far this year, California has experienced 2,878 wildfires that have burned 16,800 acres, more than five times as much acreage as had burned at this point last year.
Given the severe wildfire season anticipated now and in future years, we urge you to expedite the Air Force’s Congressionally-mandated retrofit of the aircraft. Thank you for your attention to this request.
Source: Senator Alex Padilla