Head Air Marshal to Congress: We’ve Still Got This

The “last line of defense” in the sky is persevering despite several challenges.

The economy class cabin of a new Airbus A350X WB passenger plane on the tarmac at Munich Airport during a presentation of the new plane by Airbus officials on February 27, 2015 in Munich, Germany. The A350 is a long-distance passenger plane that Airbus has developed to compete against the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
National Journal
Colby Bermel
Add to Briefcase
Colby Bermel
July 16, 2015, 4 p.m.

The dir­ect­or of the Fed­er­al Air Mar­shal Ser­vice told Con­gress on Thursday that his de­part­ment is pre­pared for evolving ter­ror threats des­pite of­fice clos­ures and em­ploy­ee mis­con­duct.

Ro­d­er­ick Al­lis­on ap­peared be­fore a House Home­land Se­cur­ity sub­pan­el to field con­cerns that the ser­vice is no longer a cap­able com­pon­ent of U.S. se­cur­ity strategy. “What I see is a vi­able coun­terter­ror­ism force that sup­ports the coun­terter­ror­ism ef­forts of this gov­ern­ment. We may be smal­ler and lean­er, and budget dol­lars are tight, but we have to do our part,” he said.

The last con­gres­sion­al hear­ing on the ser­vice was three years ago, when the same sub­com­mit­tee looked in­to al­leg­a­tions of dis­crim­in­a­tion and re­tali­ation by su­per­visors against mar­shals—a cul­ture de­scribed in a Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment re­port as “a great deal of ten­sion, mis­trust, and dis­like.” Al­lis­on re­spon­ded to ques­tions from law­makers about the events of 2012, say­ing that there was “no evid­ence of wide­spread dis­crim­in­a­tion.”

A re­cent con­tro­versy oc­curred in March, when an air mar­shal left his loaded hand­gun in a bath­room stall at Ne­wark Liberty In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port in New Jer­sey, and boarded his as­signed flight without the weapon. “You have breaches of pro­tocol,” Al­lis­on said of the in­cid­ent. “This young man, un­for­tu­nately, made a mis­take, and it’s prob­ably go­ing to cost him.”

There were broad­er is­sues on the table, too. Al­lis­on in­formed law­makers that six field of­fices will be closed in the next year, with four of them already shuttered. But these per­son­nel are be­ing re­as­signed to “our most crit­ic­al” of­fices to ser­vice high­er-risk air­ports and flights. “These clos­ures will not ad­versely im­pact our abil­ity to main­tain cov­er­age,” he said.

But staff­ing woes re­main. The last class of mar­shals—about 400 to 500, ac­cord­ing to Al­lis­on— gradu­ated in 2011, and the ser­vice has not been able to af­ford to field an­oth­er class. Al­though its an­nu­al budget is $800 mil­lion, Al­lis­on said that any ex­tra money has gone to­ward ad­dress­ing at­tri­tion. Nev­er­the­less, a new class is be­ing planned for the near fu­ture. “The pro­cess is still go­ing on,” he said. “We are go­ing to make an­oth­er run for next year.”

“Not be­ing able to hire has a det­ri­ment­al ef­fect on the work­force. There’s a sort of feel­ing of ‘dy­ing on the vine.’” Al­lis­on said. “The work­force is get­ting older. A lot of people that we hired in the be­gin­ning after 9/11, they’re go­ing to be walk­ing out the door in 2020, 2021 “¦ That is the No. 1 is­sue I would put on my wish list in big, bold let­ters.”

Al­lis­on said the ma­jor­ity of per­son­nel are fly­ing mar­shals or dir­ect sup­port. The ser­vice is fa­cing a 6 per­cent at­tri­tion rate this year.

Law­makers in­quired about the ser­vice’s tac­tic­al read­i­ness for evolving ter­ror threats. Al­lis­on said mis­sion plan­ning is in­formed by pas­sen­ger travel pat­terns, as­sessed pas­sen­ger risk, and con­sid­er­a­tion for loc­a­tions with known vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.

In reply to a ques­tion about the seat­ing loc­a­tions of mar­shals—par­tic­u­larly the per­cep­tion that they sit in first-class—Al­lis­on said that he “can’t elab­or­ate in an open hear­ing about our tac­tic­al seat­ing. “¦ As a mat­ter of prac­tice, those things are man­aged to a very high de­gree. I look for­ward to hav­ing a private con­ver­sa­tion with you in a closed set­ting, and I will give you the full pleth­ora of in­form­a­tion with re­gard to where we sit and why we sit there.”

“Wherever that in­cid­ent is, we’re go­ing to re­spond to it” he ad­ded.

This art­icle has been up­dated.

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
1 days ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
1 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
1 days ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
ANALYSIS FROM CBO
32 Million More Uninsured by 2026 if Obamacare Repealed
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login