Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)
SEC. 310A. FEDERAL FLIGHT DECK OFFICERS.
(a) Training and Requalification Training- Section 44921(c) of title 49, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(3) LOCATION OF TRAINING-
`(A) STUDY- The Secretary shall conduct a study of the feasibility of conducting Federal flight deck officer initial training at facilities located throughout the United States, including an analysis of any associated programmatic impacts to the Federal flight deck officer program.
`(B) REPORT- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this paragraph, the Secretary shall transmit to Congress a report on the results of the study.
`(4) DATES OF TRAINING- The Secretary shall ensure that a pilot who is eligible to receive Federal flight deck officer training is offered, to the maximum extent practicable, a choice of training dates and is provided at least 30 days advance notice of the dates.
`(5) TRAVEL TO TRAINING FACILITIES- The Secretary shall establish a program to improve travel access to Federal flight deck officer training facilities through the use of charter flights or improved scheduled air carrier service.
`(6) REQUALIFICATION AND RECURRENT TRAINING-
`(A) STANDARDS- The Secretary shall establish qualification standards for facilities where Federal flight deck officers can receive requalification and recurrent training.
`(B) LOCATIONS- The Secretary shall provide for requalification and recurrent training at geographically diverse facilities, including Federal, State, and local law enforcement and government facilities, and private training facilities that meet the qualification standards established under subparagraph (A).
`(7) COSTS OF TRAINING-
`(A) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall provide Federal flight deck officer training, requalification training, and recurrent training to eligible pilots at no cost to the pilots or the air carriers that employ the pilots.
`(B) TRANSPORTATION AND EXPENSES- The Secretary may provide travel expenses to a pilot receiving Federal flight deck officer training, requalification training, or recurrent training.
`(8) COMMUNICATIONS- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this paragraph, the Secretary shall establish a secure means for personnel of the Transportation Security Administration to communicate with Federal flight deck officers, and for Federal flight deck officers to communicate with each other, in support of the mission of such officers. Such means of communication may include a secure Internet website.
`(9) ISSUANCE OF BADGES- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this paragraph, the Secretary shall issue badges to Federal flight deck officers.'.
(b) Revocation of Deputization of Pilot as Federal Flight Deck Officer- Section 44921(d)(4) of title 49, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
`(A) ORDERS- The Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) may issue, for good cause, an order revoking the deputization of a Federal flight deck officer under this section. The order shall include the specific reasons for the revocation.
`(B) HEARINGS- An individual who is adversely affected by an order of the Assistant Secretary under subparagraph (A) is entitled to a hearing on the record. When conducting a hearing under this section, the administrative law judge shall not be bound by findings of fact or interpretations of laws and regulations of the Assistant Secretary.
`(C) APPEALS- An appeal from a decision of an administrative law judge as a result of a hearing under subparagraph (B) shall be made to the Secretary or the Secretary's designee.
`(D) JUDICIAL REVIEW OF A FINAL ORDER- The determination and order of the Secretary revoking the deputization of a Federal flight deck officer under this section shall be final and conclusive unless the individual against whom such an order is issued files an application for judicial review under subchapter II of chapter 5 of title 5 (popularly known as the Administrative Procedure Act) within 60 days of entry of such order in the appropriate United States court of appeals.'.
(c) Federal Flight Deck Officer Firearm Carriage Pilot Program- Section 44921(f) of title 49, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(4) PILOT PROGRAM-
`(A) IN GENERAL- Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this paragraph, the Secretary shall implement a pilot program to allow pilots participating in the Federal flight deck officer program to transport their firearms on their persons. The Secretary may prescribe any training, equipment, or procedures that the Secretary determines necessary to ensure safety and maximize weapon retention.
`(B) REVIEW- Not later than 1 year after the date of initiation of the pilot program, the Secretary shall conduct a review of the safety record of the pilot program and transmit a report on the results of the review to Congress.
`(C) OPTION- If the Secretary as part of the review under subparagraph (B) determines that the safety level obtained under the pilot program is comparable to the safety level determined under existing methods of pilots carrying firearms on aircraft, the Secretary shall allow all pilots participating in the Federal flight deck officer program the option of carrying their firearm on their person subject to such requirements as the Secretary determines appropriate.'.
(d) Federal Flight Deck Officers on International Flights-
(1) AGREEMENTS WITH FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS- The President is encouraged to pursue aggressively agreements with foreign governments to allow maximum deployment of Federal flight deck officers on international flights.
(2) REPORT- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the President (or the President's designee) shall submit to Congress a report on the status of the President's efforts to allow maximum deployment of Federal flight deck officers on international flights.
(e) References to Under Secretary- Section 44921 of title 49, United States Code, is amended--
(1) in subsection (a) by striking `Under Secretary of Transportation for Security' and inserting `Secretary of Homeland Security';
(2) by striking `Under Secretary' each place it appears and inserting `Secretary'; and
(3) by striking `Under Secretary's' each place it appears and inserting `Secretary's'.
The FFDO Program requires the following improvements to be an effective deterrent and defense against terrorism, and to interest volunteers:
- Appeals, privacy and reasonable screening for applicants and FFDOs – This legislation provides a robust appeals process for current FFDOs, but only if their deputization is revoked; not if it is indefinitely suspended. The bill does nothing to improve FFDO privacy, inappropriate screening tools, initial applicant appeals, or the onerous applications process.
- Standard federal credentials - This bill effectively addresses this improvement.
- Full-time, personal firearms carriage – A ‘pilot program’ provides TSA wide discretion to effectively kill personal carry, while delaying its implementation and putting the burden of performance on the FFDO. Significant volunteers will not come forward until personal carry is mandated across the board. It would be better to provide for personal carry, and then eliminate the provision in subsequent legislation, if it proved problematic. Providing personal carry subject to the interpretation of the TSA, may subject FFDOs to felony prosecution when they reasonably believe they need to carry a firearm in case of “call up” to fly, but the TSA does not. Felony prosecution ends a pilot’s career. The bill should simply marry FFDO carry and airport security protocols to those authorized for federal air marshals to protect the integrity of the bill’s intent; yet, it does not do this.
- Protection of international flights - This legislation “encourages” but does not mandate FFDOs on international flights. This improvement is not adequately addressed.
In summary, this legislation requires some revision to make it robust enough to substantially improve FFDO. It is a step in the right direction, but falls short of mandating a standard program, modeled after other federal law enforcement programs in place. Working to improve language in the US Senate in anticipation of a more robust compromise bill, risks lengthy delays “in conference,” and the possibility no legislation will be passed.
Therefore, we encourage our members to support this legislation, as we continue to work for more robust follow on improvements.