Big Wins for Fire Fighters in Congressional Defense Package

December 10 • 2020

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 contains a number of provisions to benefit IAFF members, including provisions to address toxic chemicals in turnout gear and improve the work schedule for a significant number of 16th District members. The IAFF worked closely with congressional allies throughout the year to ensure fire fighter priorities were included in the final bill.

The NDAA includes a number of provisions reducing fire fighters’ exposure to the toxic chemical PFAS, which is known to be present in firefighting foam and turnout gear. Most significantly, the bill directs the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) to quantify the exact amount of PFAS present in turnout gear and determine the health dangers associated with the chemical’s use in such gear. Other IAFF-supported PFAS provisions in the NDAA include:

  • Providing an incentive to private industry for the expedited development and delivery of an acceptable PFAS-free firefighting foam.
  • Directing the Department of Defense (DoD) to initiate the preparation of fixed fire suppression systems to transition to safer non-fluorinated foams.
  • Setting a DoD prohibition on the purchase of certain goods and materials treated with PFAS for use in fire stations.
  • Directing the DoD to further disclose PFAS-contaminated water on or in proximity to military installations.
  • Increased funding by $5 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the harmful health effects associated with consumption and contact with PFAS-contaminated water.

The bill also includes a long-overdue change for federal fire fighter work schedules within the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Fire and Emergency Services. Federal fire fighters working across nine states will finally transition to an alternative work schedule and away from the arduous 24 on/24 off schedule.

Additional IAFF priorities in the NDAA include:

  • An authorization of $27.8 million for the DoD to purchase new fire apparatus
  • Language allowing federal fire fighters employed at a military installation to purchase food and hygiene items at commissaries and exchanges
  • Language allowing all emergency responders, including state and municipal employees, deployed pursuant to a presidentially declared disaster to shop at mobile commissary and exchange services deployed to a disaster zone
  • Language directing the DoD conduct live emergency response training with civilian agencies likely to respond to incidents on military installations

“In a year when COVID-19 has been the primary focus of Congress, I am proud of yet another successful effort by our Governmental Affairs team,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “These are hard-won legislative victories. In these trying times, the IAFF will always remain focused on serving the needs of its members.”

President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA. Should he follow through on his threat, the IAFF will work closely with its friends and allies in Congress to override the veto and secure these important benefits for IAFF members.