By Joe DeBergalis
Honeoye Falls, NY –(Ammoland.com)- In the future, when historians are describing the Obama presidency, it’s safe to say they won’t use the word thrifty.
Federal spending has increased substantially under this Administration’s watch, providing for an ample number of dubious projects and programs that fiscal hawks have criticized.
Even in lean times national security should be of the utmost importance. But the Obama Administration’s spending behavior makes it all the more curious that the president’s proposed 2013 Department of Homeland Security budget cuts the inexpensive and effective Federal Flight Deck Officer Program by 50 percent.
Instituted with the support of the NRA-ILA following the terrorist hijackings of September 11, 2001, the FFDO program offers U.S. flight crew members the authority to carry firearms in the cockpit in order to protect against a violent takeover of an aircraft.
The requirements for the program are demanding; applicants are required to pass a background check, a medical assessment and are even required to use their own time and money in traveling to and acquiring training. To ensure the safety of airline passengers, FFDO applicants are trained by the professionals at the Federal Air Marshal Service and are subsequently made to pass semi-annual firearms re-qualification tests.
In concert with other security measures implemented since 9/11, these thousands of FFDO’s who have sought to protect their planes and passengers, represent our last line of defense against a terrorist attack.
Since its inception, the FFDO Program has won strong support from pilots but has also had to battle opposition.
Early on, the Transportation Security Administration was accused of dragging its feet to get the program up and running after the congressional mandate and has also been accused of discouraging applicants with unnecessarily onerous personal assessments and unrealistic firearm storage requirements. Some of these original issues have been ironed out, but attacks on the program’s meager budget remain.
The proposed fiscal year 2013 budget puts the cut in the FFDO Program at $12.6 million. This may seem like a hefty sum until you look at the broader picture.
The proposed 2013 budget for the Department of Homeland Security is $59 billion. When one considers that giving pilots the tools they need to prevent a terrorist takeover of an aircraft is a mere .02 percent of the budget of an umbrella agency created in response to the 2001 terrorist takeover of several aircraft, this cut borders on the absurd.
Even when the cost is compared just to the entire $7.6 billion budget of the Transportation Security Administration, the Flight Deck Officer Program still only amounts to a mere .17 percent.
In its explanation for hobbling the program in the annual DHS “Budget in Brief,” the DHS explains, “As TSA focuses its aviation security activities on programs that mitigate the highest amount of risk at the lowest cost; TSA has prioritized funding in the same manner.”
In 2012, TSA requested $77 million for the installation of new, much-maligned and often defeated, advanced imaging machines, and this was after a $214 million request in 2011.
As the controversy surrounding the effectiveness of airport security has come to the forefront several times in the past decade, the need for a strong FFDO Program has never been more apparent.
The FFDO program, once implemented, has not been a source of public controversy. Even amongst the most vocal proponents of gun control, there has been little opposition.
This makes sense; anyone who can be trusted to fly a 700,000-pound airplane filled with hundreds of people over the cities of America, once trained – can and should also be entrusted, with the tools needed to defend the plane against a violent attack from within.
Almost every person who steps on a plane will never know if their pilot is armed to protect them. Arming a flight crew member isn’t theater. It’s not meant to make a passenger feel safer. It actually makes them safer.
Maybe that, along with an inherent Obama Administration hatred of guns, is why the FFDO Program is among the first to be targeted with the budget axe.
The NRA will continue to defend the FFDO program and its benefits to all travelers. For the latest news and information on what you can do to help protect this vital program, visit NRAILA.org.
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