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FLEOA FAMS Statement for House Oversight Hearing


 November 17, 2021 


The Honorable Bonnie Watson Coleman 

Chair, Subcommittee on Transportation & 

Maritime Security 

Committee on Homeland Security 

U.S. House of Representatives 

Washington, D.C. 20515 


Dear Madam Chair: 


 I am writing on behalf of the more than 30,000 members of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association regarding yesterday’s hearing "On the Frontlines in Turbulent Times: Workforce Perspectives on the State of Transportation.” FLEOA represents members from 65 federal law enforcement agencies, including the brave men and women of the Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS). We ask that this statement be included in the hearing record. 


Although the morale of the rank-and-file Federal Air Marshal (FAM) is at an all-time low, as law enforcement professionals they continue to demonstrate exceptional reliability and trustworthiness to the citizens they are honored to serve and protect. FAMs stand resolute in their commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our Nation’s transportation system at home and abroad. As they have continuously demonstrated, FAMs have a strong personal and professional commitment to ensuring each and every assignment is successfully completed without regards to time, location, or acknowledgement. At its core, they remain Invisus, Inauditus, Impavidus—Unseen, Unheard, and Unafraid—in their service to the United States. 


We appreciate your interest in addressing many of the concerns we have raised regarding the impact of FAMS policies on the health and well-being of our members. Below we provide some additional comments on the perspectives of our frontline FAMS members with respect to the topic of today’s hearing. 


 Impact of the Vaccine Mandate on FAMS Personnel 

  

In the daily performance of their jobs, FAMs interact shoulder to shoulder with citizens utilizing our Nation’s various transportation systems. It is not lost on them the very real possibility of contracting the virus in the performance of these duties. Considering this, the vast majority of the FAMS workforce has embraced the vaccination. However, FAMS personnel share the concerns expressed by many in federal law enforcement that the vaccination mandate for all government employees is an executive overreach. FLEOA has encouraged its members to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Still, we remain concerned that the current November 22 deadline by which unvaccinated employees may face discipline up to termination was set without employee or stakeholder input and without real recognition of medical, religious, or personnel reservations which may be covered under the federal law governing reasonable accommodations. 

 

FLEOA is also concerned with the perceived randomness of now three federal deadlines for vaccination compliance: November 22 for federal employees, January 4  for private employers covered by OSHA’s recent emergency temporary standard, and the latest deadline of January 18 for federal contractor employees. 


In light of this, last week FLEOA renewed its call on the President to rescind the current and highly punitive Executive Order requiring federal employee vaccination and to reinstate the previous Executive Order from January that offered the choice of vaccination or masking, social distancing, and testing. We also asked the President to clarify the need for federal agencies to entertain every reasonable accommodation request on its individual merits. 

 

Issues Surrounding Unruly Passengers 


Given the media coverage and the Nation’s collective and justified outrage at the type of behavior displayed by some air travel passengers, issues surrounding unruly passengers have understandably been at the forefront of our FAMS members’ minds. Truth be told, in spite of the recent spike in incidents, this has always been an issue for the FAMS as we have seen this type of behavior onboard aircrafts since the agency’s inception. That is why FAMs have trained and continue to train to balance the need to keep the flight safe with the need to be vigilant against an act of terror. FAMs would never knowingly allow an individual to be assaulted if it was in their power to prevent it. 


Unfortunately, it’s no secret that the Federal Air Marshal Service is not present on every flight, which the media has used as fodder to attack the program when an onboard assault occurs. FAMs are supposed to be deployed based on a threat-based metric. To date though, there is no way to assess the "threat” posed by an individual passenger with no criminal history and no known ties to domestic or international terrorism. Going one-step further, the vast majority of these cases involve the person in question consuming alcohol or ingesting drugs, prescribed or otherwise, and this behavior is a "one off” for them.

 

As an organization and as individuals, let me take a moment to reassure the members of the Subcommittee and the flight attendant community as a whole that our FAMS’ members are continually dedicated ensuring the safety and security of the aircraft, its crew, and passengers.

 

Looking Ahead 


In light of the Subcommittee’s interest in protecting transportation, stakeholders, and consumers, we encourage you to look at several additional issues regarding FAMS, and which have been raised by our members. These include: 


Morale issues. TSA conducted a morale survey of FAMs in January of this year. As of today, absolutely no results or information has been shared concerning the survey’s findings. We would highly encourage the Subcommittee to demand the unredacted and unfiltered results of this survey. 


Operational tempo. As we have discussed, FAMs are seeing numerous schedule changes within a single week and multiple schedule changes within a single day. FAMs are still being "flexed” over 4 hours for their workdays – some over 8 hours long. This has a significant impact on a FAM’s quality of life. Additionally, FAMs are being bullied into giving up their Non Mission /Office (NMS) Days to fly missions instead of  allowing them to use that time to complete a mountain of paperwork associated with their regular duties TSA and FAMS have long used NMS days to declare to Congress that Air Marshal personnel "aren’t really flying that much”. They have routinely reported to Congress that FAMs are getting two NMS days per flight schedule and are only flying 18 fly days during a roster period. Not only are our members not being assigned two NMS days, but they are now looked at as operational flight assets instead of non-operational assets. In a nutshell, the FAMs are being "asked” to take flying mission on their NMS days by Operations. If they decline, then the Operations section is supposed to notify their supervisors of their failure to "volunteer” and the supervisor will then call them to "encourage” them to fly. 


No "real” flight physicals. Currently, a FAM’s physical consists of an EKG test, eye exam, and a hearing test. Up until 10 years ago, it was a complete flight physical with blood work. I believe the FAMS know full well the diminished physical capacity that Air Marshals are in and want no traceable historical data to mine when significant long-term health issues develop in the future. 


In addition to these issues, we encourage the Subcommittee and the full Committee to continue to seek ways to address the disparities in pay and overtime compensation for FAMs in relation to every other federal law enforcement officer. This includes the passage of legislation, like H.R. 903, the "Rights for the TSA Workforce Act” and working to ensure that the federal pay cap is lifted, in the same way Speaker Pelosi has done for House staff. Further, their entire salary should be used for pension calculations upon retirement rather than the current practice of pension calculations only allowable up to the federal paycap. 


Thank you again for your leadership on efforts to improve transportation security, and specifically to address many of the personnel policies and pay parity concerns raised by Federal Air Marshals. We look forward to continuing to work with you on these matters and if we can be of any additional assistance, feel free to contact us at fleoa@fleoa.org. 

 


Sincerely, 

Larry Cosme 

National President 

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association