TSA forces Federal Officers to carry locked guns?

federal flight deck officer guns lockedPilots at America's Airlines have an inside perspective on how red tape and politics are getting in the way of airline security. Here's what they've told us.

Despite the will of the people and Congress, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has failed to put in place reasonable safeguards to protect the traveling public. The Federal Flight Deck Officers Association (FFDOA) and Passenger-Cargo Security Group (PCSG) are working to correct these problems, but it seems to be an uphill battle.

While Federal agencies scramble to meet President Obama's demand that armed Federal officers cover substantially more flights, the TSA is refusing to unshackle thousands of Federal officers who are ready, willing, and able to defend our nation's airlines.

Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs) are pilots who have volunteered, passed background and psychological testing, and graduated from a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. But they are currently required to lock their weapons whenever they are outside of the cockpit.

This locking requirement, cited by a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report as being an unsafe practice, prevents FFDOs from serving as counter-terrorism force multipliers when traveling in the cabin or through airport terminals.

The flights that are exposed to the greatest aviation terrorism threat are those on international routes. While the law establishing the FFDO program specifically authorizes FFDOs to perform their mission on international flights, the State Department has failed to negotiate pertinent agreements with foreign nations who oppose armed airline security.

There is generally an "extra" pilot in the cabin during flights over eight hours. That pilot could be the key to stopping the next bombing plot, such as the Christmas day bomb event aboard a Delta Airlines flight in Detroit. Prohibiting FFDO's from carrying weapons on International flights is not in the best interest of our airlines or our National Security.

Some may argue that the cost is prohibitive. However, because of the volunteer nature of the FFDO program, it costs only $15 per flight to have a trained FFDO aboard compared with $3,300 for other law enforcement officers. The irony is that the TSA has capped training new FFDOs because of budget constraints. The budget has not increased one penny from the $22 million it had seven years ago, despite more than a 1,000% increase in the number of FFDOs.

Congress will soon be reviewing security threats and our readiness to meet those threats. We recommend that you contact your Representative and both U.S. Senators to encourage them to work with FFDOA and PCSG to correct these fatal flaws in our war on terror.

We have the ability to prevent, or at least dramatically lower the odds, of another September 11 style terrorist incident IF we are willing to do what it necessary. The FFDO program is in place and ready.

You can look up your representatives here.

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