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Hice Measure to Bolster Aviation Safety Soars Through House

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Washington, March 22, 2018 | Nadgey Louis-Charles (202-538-5248) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Jody Hice (R-GA), vice-chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, today praised the passage of H.R. 4467, the Strengthening Aviation Security Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. This measure, which Hice introduced in November of 2017, requires that the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) deploy its personnel for domestic and international flight coverage using risk-based strategies.

“We must improve our current practices to prevent airplanes from being turned into weapons of war by those who seek to do us harm,” said Congressman Hice. “Unless the Federal Air Marshal Service adequately incorporates risk into its strategies that determine which flights to cover, there is no way to guarantee that the flights at greatest risk for a terrorist attack have federal air marshals on board.”

“With the passage of my legislation, the Strengthening Aviation Security Act, we are one step closer to directly reducing risks to airline passengers,” Hice continued. “I’m grateful for the bipartisan support of my colleagues, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act upon this legislation quickly.”

“Aviation remains a top target for terrorists, and without question, there should be no stone left unturned when it comes to the safety and security of the American people,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul. “By integrating risk-based strategies into the process of determining which flights air marshals cover, we will better protect our Nation’s airspace and air travelers. I’m pleased Congressman Hice’s commonsense measure passed the House, and I will continue to work with him to secure American airports.”

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-making 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.

The measure reported out of the Homeland Security Committee by unanimous consent on March 7, 2018. On November 27, 2017, the Air Marshal Association wrote a letter in 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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