A story in USA Today does a great disservice to the Federal Air Marshal Service. Like any law enforcement agency, a small percentage of bad apples always garner more media attention than the overwhelming number of outstanding professionals. While sensationalizing the regrettable acts of a very few may make for good front page news, it doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of an organization.
Since coming to the Federal Air Marshal Service more than five years ago and becoming Director in July, I have had the honor of serving alongside air marshals from all over the country. These are fine men and women who proudly carry out their mission of keeping air travel safe. One law enforcement officer joined the Federal Air Marshal Service after some of his family members were killed on one of the planes on 9/11. Another joined after helping to evacuate people from the Pentagon on 9/11, where his focus was so much on helping people that he didn’t notice the burns on his own body until later that day. In the last two years, more than 30 percent of our new hires were veterans.
While air marshals work behind the scenes, we cannot underestimate the value they add to aviation security throughout the country and the world. They put their lives on the line every day to keep passengers and flight crews safe. Among our ranks are military veterans, law enforcement officers, and other dedicated professionals from varied and accomplished backgrounds. All who join the ranks of the air marshal service have met the most stringent suitability standards and have successfully completed a rigorous 15-week training program.
That being said, there have been incidents of criminal misconduct with air marshals over the years. We take every allegation seriously, we investigate them thoroughly and if the allegations are true, we work to quickly remove the individual from our ranks while assuring them due process. Although the actual number of FAMs cannot be discussed publicly, the number of offenders is exceedingly small compared to the total members of our workforce.
As an organization that was quickly enlarged in the wake of 9/11, growing pains are expected. To understand the needs and concerns of our workforce, FAMS leadership has been engaging with our frontline workforce and maintaining regular dialogues with air marshals both in person and in other methods. We have held formal listening sessions with significant numbers of air marshals, and established communications networks to ensure we’re aware of field concerns that could affect our work.
I am proud of the men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service, and I don’t want the public to think that the vast majority of federal air marshals are represented by the acts of a few who chose to misuse their position. Our workforce is highly trained, sincerely dedicated to their security mission and they work without personal credit for their successes.
Director, Federal Air Marshal Service