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Hice Introduces Measure to Enhance Aviation Security

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Washington, November 29, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Jody Hice (R-GA), vice-chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, yesterday introduced H.R. 4467, the Strengthening Aviation Security Act, which requires the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) to incorporate risk-based strategies when determining its personnel deployment for domestic and international flight coverage.

“Since 9/11, there have been a series of attempts to infiltrate the aviation sector, and it’s clear that these threats have not diminished,” said Congressman Hice. “Terrorists target aircraft to instill fear and undermine our way of life. To keep the traveling public safer and make it harder for our adversaries to succeed, I introduced the Strengthening Aviation Security Act – a commonsense approach toward mitigating potential risks and raising the global baseline for flight security.”

“With threats coming at us left and right, our focus should be on implementing effective, evidence-based means of deterring, detecting, and disrupting plots hatched by our enemies,” Hice continued. “This bill will require FAMS to take prudent actions by integrating risk-based methodologies to conduct aviation threat assessments, thereby devoting its resources to the highest-risk flights. As perils continue to emerge, public safety must not be a partisan issue, and I’m proud that this measure develops a protocol to elevate our foreign and domestic aircraft security standards.”

Background:

FAMS is a U.S. law enforcement agency within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that deploys federally-trained air marshal agents on U.S. aircraft worldwide. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office published a report that found that TSA and FAMS fail to adequately factor in risk when determining its deployment strategies. Under the current system, FAMS considers its travel budget and number of personnel as factors to determine how to allocate its resources for international and domestic flights, but does not account for risk in the decision process. For domestic missions, allocation decisions are made based on the professional judgement of subject matter experts, not on risk-assessments. Further, this report found that FAMS does not document the reasons for its international deployment decisions. Without this vital information, there is no verifiable method to determine whether the decisions are intelligence-driven, risk-based, or even in compliance with TSA or DHS directives.

On November 27, 2017, the Air Marshal Association expressed its support of the legislation.

The Strengthening Aviation Security Act would:

·         Require FAMS to use risk management, travel budget, and number of air marshal personnel when distributing resources between domestic and international flight coverage;

·         Conduct a threat assessment to support domestic deployment decisions; and

·         Provide Congress with the documented methodology used by FAMS to conduct risk assessments.

The full bill text can be found here.  

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