DENVER (AP) -- Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall says delays in upgrading the U.S. Forest Service fleet of firefighting aircraft are unacceptable and he's asking federal officials to to speed up the process.
In a letter released Monday, Udall tells Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department oversees the Forest Service, the planes are urgently needed before the start of the 2013 wildfire season.
Udall says 2012 legislation authorized the Forest Service to acquire up to eight new tanker planes to drop retardant on wildfires. He says the planes have been delayed by appeals and contracting issues.
Separately, Udall is also asking the military to speed up the transfer of up to seven surplus cargo planes to the Forest Service for firefighting duty. He says the transfer is authorized in the Defense Authorization Act.