Are you safer on flights? Maybe not…
Since 2001 the United States has taken many precautions to guard against another similar tragedy from occurring. One of those changes was the institution of the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program (FFDO) in which airline pilots can volunteer to under go training to carry a gun in the cockpit during flights in an effort to prevent a hijacking.
While there has been wide support for this program from both Republicans and Democrats alike, President Obama’s latest proposed budget for 2013 is cutting much of the funding for the program. “As recently as last March, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano voiced support for the program, agreeing with Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minnesota, a former airline pilot and FFDO, that it was a vital part of the country’s layer defenses.”
This program received $25 million in the 2012 budget but under the proposed 2013 budget, the funding was cut in half, down to $12 million. The program currently costs $15 per flight for an armed pilot. This program is much cheaper to administer than the Federal Air Marshall Service which currently has a budget of $964 million. Under the 2013 budget, the Federal Air Marshall Service also suffered a cut of 4%, equaling $927 million. This cut was justified because of “efficiencies and program changes that leverage other aviation security system enhancements, allowing for more efficient mission deployments focused on high-risk flights”.
This is a shocking cut to many in the aviation field and security proponents because it was known to be a quite popular, effective and rather safe program which was an efficient use personnel and funds. This program acted as a substitute to a Federal Marshall on board a flight but this program offered a wider array of flights the safety and protection that an armed pilot offers against the fear of hijacking by terrorists. This severe cut in the program’s budget sends a message to not only pilots but the American people that the safety of flights is not important enough to allocate an adequate budget to run the program effectively. Hopefully, President Obama will reconsider this budget cut before his final budget goes into effect for 2013.
To read more about the cuts in the Flight Deck Officer Program, go to: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/13/us/budget-cuts-armed-pilots/index.html