Air travel is constantly faced with serious security threats and this has forced various countries all over the world to put in place specialized standby security organs to protect and safeguard national, as well as international flights, in their respective countries. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States has expanded its law enforcement air program commonly known as Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMs). FAMs is charged with the responsibility of restoring public confidence in civil aviation by efficiently positioning Federal Air marshals on selected commercial flights to identify, discourage and conquer terrorist and hostile acts aiming United States airports, aircrafts, air travelers, and crews (Lord 2009; Purpura 2010;Bragdon 2008). According to Lord (2009), FAMs is a major component of the Transport Security Administration (TSA) that has a shared duty of safeguarding roughly twenty nine thousand flights undertaken each day by United States commercial traveler aeroplanes. The purpose of this task is to explain how the FAMs layer of security functions and assess and categorize if any human factor issue in this layer could produce a compromise in the aviation safety or security system.
How Federal Air Marshals Layer of Security Functions
FAMs applies a layered approach to aviation security in its endeavors to realize its mission of positioning qualified, well trained and armed federal air marshals to offer on-board security presence on selected domestic and international flights (Lord 2009). According to Purpura (2010), TSA had twenty layers of security as of year 2006 of which FMAs is one of its main layers. The Federal Air Marshal Service is the major law enforcement organ of TSA (Bragdon, 2008). FAMs uses tactfully deployed armed personnel who travel on board within selected commercial flights operated daily in the USA. According to Bragdon (2008), even though FAMs had been in existence within the aviation security since the 1960s, their function was not important until the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when the law that established the Domestic Homeland Security (DHS) broadened the air marshal program.
FAMs determine everyday on a regular basis which commercial flights have to be provided with on-board security personnel (Lord 2009). In order to enhance accuracy in making of this critical aviation security decision at a time of widespread domestic and international terrorism, FAMs have built and developed an operational method popularly known as the agency’s concept of operations (Lord 2009). Through this carefully crafted approach FAMs deploys air marshals on chosen commercial flights. Since the September 11, 2001 FAMs has expanded its coverage to include and give precedence to nonstop, long-distance flights such like those aimed at on September 11 (Lord 2009).
Human factor issue in this layer
There are various human factor issues in this layer that can produce a compromise in the aviation safety or security. According to Lord (2009), apart from making critical flight-coverage decisions, FAMs also encounters challenges in dealing with a range of quality-of-life and operational concerns that have an effect on the ability of air marshals to undertake the significant agency’s mission. In fact, most of these issues have attracted widespread media coverage due to the delicate function entrusted to FAMs especially following the September 11, 2001 terrorists attack which left Americans citizens and our government desperately concerned about security of our domestic and international air travelers. One of the main human issues that can bring about compromise in our aviation security regards maintenance of secrecy during aircraft boarding processes (Lord 2009). Another important human factor issue concerns the capacity of TSA and other concerned authorities’ capacity to lessen numerous possible health matters attributed to frequent flying (Lord 2009). These human factors can be resolved by ensuring that air marshals do not serve beyond an agreed minimum period of time in order to mitigate health risks associated to frequent flying. During their tenure they should operate on a rotational basis strictly manned by the TSA and top FAMs’ officials in order to ensure that they do not become familiar faces in given airports and with crews, frequent air travelers and airport workers. Doing so would enable FAMs maintain anonymity of its officers.
Bragdon, C. R. (2008). Transportation Security. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Lord, S. M. (2009). Aviation Security: Federal Air Marshall Service Has Taken Actions to Fulfill Its Mission and Address Workforce Issues, But Additional Actions are Needed to Improve Workforce. New York, NY: DIANE Publishing.
Purpura, P. P. (2010). Security: An Introduction. New York, NY: CRC Press.