Federal Air Marshal Service: Study conducted to monitor effectiveness


By: Jim Kouri, CPP

Since that fateful day — September 11, 2001 — on which Americans watched in horror the terrorist attacks involving the use of commercial airliners as deadly missiles, the United States has not witnessed one airplane crash or passenger fatality at the hands of terrorists. There are many who argue that part of the reason for this encouraging situation is the enhanced security afforded the US airline industry, and part of that security is the Federal Air Marshal Service.

Because the number of air marshals is less than the number of daily flights, FAMS’s operational approach is to assign air marshals to selected flights it deems high risk — such as the nonstop, long-distance flights targeted on September 11, 2001.

In assigning air marshals, FAMS seeks to maximize coverage of flights in 10 targeted high-risk categories, which are based on consideration of threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences.

In July 2006, the Homeland Security Institute, a federally funded research and development center, independently assessed FAMS’s operational approach and found it to be reasonable. However, the institute noted that certain types of flights were covered less often than others. The institute recommended that FAMS increase randomness or unpredictability in selecting flights and otherwise diversify the coverage of flights within the various risk categories.

In its January 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office noted that the Homeland Security Institute’s evaluation methodology was reasonable and that FAMS had taken actions (or had ongoing efforts) to implement the institute’s recommendations.

To address workforce-related issues, FAMS’s previous Director, who served until June 2008, established a number of processes and initiatives, such as working groups, listening sessions, and an internal Web site for agency personnel to provide anonymous feedback to management. These efforts have produced some positive results.

For example, FAMS revised its policy for airport check-in and aircraft boarding procedures to help protect the anonymity of air marshals in mission status, and FAMS modified its mission scheduling processes and implemented a voluntary lateral transfer program to address certain quality-of-life issues.

The air marshals GAO interviewed expressed satisfaction with FAMS’s efforts to address workforce-related issues. The current FAMS Director has expressed a commitment to continue applicable processes and initiatives. Also, FAMS has plans to conduct a workforce satisfaction survey of all employees every 2 years, building upon an initial survey conducted in fiscal year 2007.

GAO’s review found that the potential usefulness of future surveys could be enhanced by ensuring that the survey questions and the answer options are clearly structured and unambiguous and that additional efforts are considered for obtaining the highest possible response rates.

To its credit, FAMS has made progress in addressing various operational and quality-of-life issues that affect the ability of air marshals to perform their aviation security mission. However, sustaining progress will require ongoing consideration by FAMS management — and continued oversight by the US Congress — of key questions, such as how to foster career sustainability for air marshals, according to the GAO report submitted to Congress.


Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.

He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc.

To subscribe to Kouri’s newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write “Subcription” on the subject line.

About The Author Jim Kouri, CPP:
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.
Website:http://jimkouri.us

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