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Why Pay Air Marshals When Others Would Pay To Do the Job? May 24, 2007

Posted by federalist in Government Spending, Open Questions, Transportation.
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The Federal Air Marshals budget this year is $700MM.  In exchange for that we get teams of Air Marshals hogging first class seats on roughly 5% of commercial flights.

As I recently settled into my first class seat on an overseas flight I realized that I am willing to pay quite a bit for the privilege of flying up front.  There are probably a lot of people like me who feel the same way: Law enforcement and military professionals with government clearances and firearms training who, in the normal course of their travels, would be happy to carry guns on board as a deterrent to terrorists.

At present the Transportation Stupidity Administration is spending roughly $350k per year per marshal to field a group of unhappy officers who almost never have to do anything.

Marshals have made 59 arrests since 2001 and drawn their weapons only twice — once shooting a man dead. In the end, none of the incidents were found to be related to terrorism.

Meanwhile, the same agency has done all it can to stymie the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which is capable of arming pilots on nearly every flight.  (Even so, there are now more armed pilots than air marshals flying.)

Full-time Air Marshals are a stupid and wasteful idea.  Since the only requirement is to deter terrorists and restrain belligerents until an aircraft can be brought to the ground we do not need a cadre of specialists dedicated fulltime to such extremely rare emergencies.  An Air Marshal should be any government officer willing and able to carry firearms in the air.  And since Air Marshals typically sit in first class, I believe officers in the normal course of their work and vacation travels would pay out of their own pockets for the privilege of defending our skies.

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1. federalist - February 17, 2009

Will a new federal administration fix the TSA?

[Robert] Poole of the Reason Foundation and [Billie] Vincent, the former FAA security chief who now is an aviation security consultant, both believe that the air marshal program should be scaled back, and that money saved should be spent on other security measures, such as bolstering perimeter security at airports and strengthening access controls.

Strengthened cockpit doors and passenger willingness to subdue attackers make hijackings less likely these days. Bombs, attacks at airports and perhaps even shoulder-fired missiles are considered major threats to aviation security now, and air marshals provide little help in those areas.


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