Move Adds Additional Security to Commercial Air System
Secretary Tom Ridge has transferred the Federal Air Marshal Service
(FAMS) from the Transportation Security Administration to U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The move enhances homeland security and re-enforces DHS’s
commitment to air security by fusing all of the investigative
resources within the Border and Transportation Security Directorate
at ICE, the largest investigative arm of Homeland Security. The
move also expands Homeland Security’s ability to respond to
air security threats by creating a vastly larger surge potential of
trained federal agents who can respond during times of crisis.
“This is the right move at the right time for the right
reasons,” said Secretary Ridge. “ICE offers the Air
Marshal Service multiple investigative resources, such as better
coordination with other law enforcement agencies and broader
training opportunities. And the Air Marshals bring unique law
enforcement and air security resources to ICE.”
While touring the Federal Air Marshal training facility in
Atlantic City, New Jersey, Secretary Ridge reiterated Homeland
Security’s commitment to the security of the flying public.
“The Federal Air Marshals are but one part of a multi-layered
security system for our nation’s air passenger system,”
he said. “TSA and Homeland Security have taken numerous steps
that have made our commercial air system far safer than it was
before September 11th.”
Besides adding thousands of new air marshals to fly on
commercial airplanes, since September 11th, TSA and Homeland
Security have worked in partnership with the airline industry to
improve air security by:
- Hiring and training
more than 45,000 professional transportation security
- Federal screeners receive more than 100 hours of training,
instead of the 3-4 hours of training provided to contract screeners
before September 11th.
- Federal screeners undergo rigorous background checks.
- Federal screeners are constantly being informed of the latest
intelligence to assist them in looking for threatening items and
- TSA aggressively tests the system using undercover auditors,
and reviewing the results of the tests with screener supervisors
- Adding more than $1 billion of new technology in airports
across the country. This includes replacing all airport metal
detectors with new detectors using the latest technology.
- Screening 100% of checked baggage for explosives.
- The congressionally-approved methods of screening baggage in
use today are set out in the Aviation and Transportation Security
Act that was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush on
Nov. 19, 2001. This Act authorizes TSA to use a variety of methods
to screen checked baggage, including electronic explosive-detecting
machines, canines and physical inspections.
- Nationally, about 92 percent of all bags are screened
electronically. At a handful of airports, bags are screened by
other congressionally approved methods.
- Prior to 9-11 only about than 5 percent of all bags were being
screened by any means.
- Hardening cockpit doors in more than 6,000 commercial passenger
- Training more than 500 volunteer pilots as Federal Flight Deck
Officers, authorizing them to carry guns in the cockpit.
- Requiring daily pre-flight inspections by airlines, of every
commercial passenger plane in operation.
- Working with airlines, airports and other airport employers to
complete more than 1 million background checks on all of their
employees. This includes criminal background checks done by the
- Closely monitoring the use of airport identification badges in
an effort to prevent security breaches.
- Working with airports to increase curbside security.
- Working with airport authorities and local law enforcement to
improve airport perimeter security.
Michael J. Garcia, ICE
Acting Assistant Secretary, said that the FAMS are being integrated
into ICE as one of six operational divisions dedicated to homeland
“This fusion of the FAMS into ICE will not only establish
an integrated law enforcement presence in the aviation sector; it
will enhance ICE’s overall law enforcement capabilities and
resources to enforce its mission, which is to detect and prevent
vulnerabilities or violations that threaten the nation's homeland
security,” said Garcia. “Our goal at ICE is to create a
seamless web of resources that can be used wherever the threat is
In order to prepare the FAMs for high-altitude surveillance,
deterrence, and combat, the Federal Air Marshal Service sends each
trainee to William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New
The stringent training program there includes behavioral
observation, intimidation tactics, and close quarters self-defense.
In addition, ICE Air Marshals are held to a higher standard for
handgun accuracy than most federal law enforcement officers.