2/17/2012

Obama moving to kill Armed Pilots Program?

Fiscal year 2013: Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings Budget of the U.S. Government
Office of Management and Budget (www.Budget.gov)

Obama's 2013 budget looks to cut the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) from $25 million to $12 million. But has almost no cut in the Federal Air Marshal Service. From CNN:

President Barack Obama's budget ax is falling hard on a program that allows pilots to carry handguns in the cockpit as a last line of defense against terrorists.

Obama's proposed 2013 budget cuts in half funds for the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. The current budget of $25 million a year -- which goes for such things as conducting background checks, training the pilots, and periodic gun proficiency tests and retraining, in addition to administrative costs -- would be cut to $12 million.

The thousands of armed pilots, who greatly outnumber the better-known federal air marshals, volunteer for the job, train at federal academies and are deputized to use their weapons in the cockpit. They call themselves the "single most cost-effective counter-terrorism measure" the government has taken.

The federal government spends about $15 a flight for FFDOs, as armed pilots are called, compared to $3,000 per flight for federal air marshals, said Mike Karn, vice president of the Federal Flight Deck Officers Association. Those numbers are based on costs of the respective programs divided by the number of flights covered by armed pilots and air marshals.

As recently as last March, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano voiced support for the program, agreeing with Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minnesota, a former airline pilot and FFDO, that it was a vital part of the country's layer defenses.

But in the budget documents released Monday, administration officials said security measures put in place since 2001, such as locked cockpit doors and 100% screening of airline passengers, "have greatly lowered the chances of unauthorized cockpit access."

The proposed budget also cuts Federal Air Marshal Service funds almost 4%, to $927 million. It is unclear whether that cut will result in fewer air marshals. The number of air marshals is classified. . . .


My understanding is that there are currently about 10,000 to 12,000 FFDOs out of about 60,000 commercial pilots flying large planes and 90,000 flying all size commercial passenger planes.

Representative Cravaack Grills Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

Rep. Cravaack: Is your intention that this program be phased out?
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: I think that as the budget request shows it is our intention to reduce it, yes. But we have not predicted its demise.

Thanks to Tracy Price for the links.

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