In the FY 2013 Federal Budget, the Obama Administration proposes to cut $13 million from the Federal Flight Deck Officer program. This is the program which trains those airline pilots that volunteer and qualify to be armed in the cockpit. The current funding for FY 2012 is $25 million.
The justification for this cut is that improvements in TSA procedures have “enhanced” airline security to the point where the FFDO program is barely needed.
The Administration proposes to reduce funding for the FFDO program (i.e., deputized, armed pilots) in 2013. As the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) focuses its aviation security activities on programs that mitigate the highest amount of risk at the lowest cost, the Budget has prioritized funding in the same manner. The voluntary FFDO program was created as a “last defense” layer of security at a time when comprehensive aviation screening and other physical security measures were not fully developed or deployed on a system-wide basis. Since 2001, however, there have been a number of enhancements to aviation security. TSA now conducts 100 percent screening of all passengers and their carryon items, has overseen installation of reinforced and locking cockpit doors on aircraft that operate in U.S. airspace, and has increased passenger and flight crew awareness to address security risks. Combined, these improvements have greatly lowered the chances of unauthorized cockpit access and represent a comprehensive and redundant risk-mitigation strategy that begins well before passengers board the aircraft.
Are we talking about the same TSA? The one that engages in security kabuki theater while a number of its agents have been found to have been stealing from checked luggage including firearms. If they are corrupt enough to steal, they are corrupt enough to be able to be bribed by terrorists.
If TSA has really made flying so safe, then why not go the whole distance and discontinue the FFDO program entirely? Either the program is needed or it isn’t. I, for one, think having armed flight crew is an excellent idea and more cost effective than many of the procedures currently used by TSA.