Air Marshals Claim Flight Numbers Have Been Padded

Signs keep appearing of widespread discontent from the Federal Air Marshal service. In today’s Washington Times, sources within FAMS tell Audrey Hudson that FAMS management routinely pads numbers to demonstrate coverage mandated by Congress, sometimes doubling the actual number of protected flights — and even the inflated numbers fall short of 10%:

Flight reports by the Federal Air Marshal Service show that federal agents were on less than 10 percent of the nation’s flights in December, a number several air marshals say was inflated to make it appear to Congress that commercial air travel is better protected than it is.
“The numbers reported to headquarters come back higher than originally reported and are sometimes upwards of double the number of what is actually flown,” an air marshal said. “Everyone knows they are padding the numbers.”
FAMS flight reports for December, obtained by The Washington Times, show air marshals were on about 9.4 percent of the nearly 30,800 daily domestic and international flights.
But the marshals say that figure is impossible, because more flights are reported as having armed agents aboard than the service’s 21 field offices can deploy.
The marshals say the numbers are manipulated upward to make it appear as if the agency has met staffing levels that Congress mandated.

When the Times brought these complaints to FAMS spokesman Dave Adams, he initially refused to comment without seeing the documentation, using the CBS Memogate debacle to cover his refusal. When the Times called his bluff, he responded — by not responding:

FAMS spokesman Dave Adams initially refused to comment on the methods used to count missions unless a page of the monthly reports containing the data was faxed to him for verification.
“When CBS had accusations about President Bush’s reserve-duty time, CBS gave them the courtesy to review the document before commenting on it, and I would like the same courtesy,” Mr. Adams said.
After reviewing the document, he only said: “For obvious security and operational reasons, we never comment on the specific locations or numbers of federal air marshals employed around the country on any given day.”
“At the same time, we can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of the information provided to reporters purporting to detail the locations and deployment of air marshals,” he said.

Congress needs to look into what FAMS management is doing with transportation security. FAMS has enraged its agents with picayune dress codes that appear designed to help terrorists identify them on flights as well as grandstanding with people like Lyle Lovett at their training facilities while demanding secrecy from the rank and file. Now agents claim that the FAMS service has lost almost half of its workforce through a “mass exodus” due to their treatment by Thomas Quinn, going from 4,000 to 2,200 agents. Since they must travel in pairs, the reported flight coverage range of 2,000 – 3,400 flights daily appear to impossible:

At one time, FAMS employed the 4,000 agents mandated by Congress, but the number has been halved, marshals say. Based on the number of guns issued, there are about 2,200 marshals stationed nationwide to fly seven days a week. …
Marshals always travel in teams — a minimum of two agents and sometimes as many as four per plane. This means a minimum of 1,100 teams protect domestic and international flights. With sick days, regular days off, vacation and medical leave, it is statistically impossible to cover even the minimum number of flights listed by the report on any given day, the marshals say.
“The numbers don’t add up; it’s way too much,” a marshal said. “Several field offices have complained about it and were told to shut up. This is a scam.”
More than 2,600 flights were listed as covered on Christmas Eve, 2,039 on Christmas Day and 2,893 on New Year’s Eve.
“The numbers are impossible,” said another air marshal.

Obviously, someone is lying — either Quinn and his management team or the agents in the field. If it’s the former, then Congress needs to haul them in front of a committee hearing pronto for an explanation. If it’s the rank and file, then Quinn still needs to answer why his agents have become so discontented with FAMS. Either way, we face a management debacle at FAMS that directly threatens the security of the United States. Congress and the White House need to act now to determine the truth and get it fixed. (via Michelle Malkin)