This post in our Agency Spotlight series is on the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). They fall under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Their mission statement is this, “The Air Marshal Service is meant to promote confidence in civil aviation by effectively deploying Federal Air Marshals (FAM’s) to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting the United States.”
The Federal Air Marshal Service can be tracked back to 1962 and were originally under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As restructures have happened, they were moved to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The TSA was established after the signing of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act in November 2001, under the Bush Administration. Then in 2005, FAMS moved under the authority of DHS.
FAM’s are specially trained agents who fly undercover as passengers to protect the crew and passengers from any potential threats, terrorists, and unruly passengers. Also, they assist with medical emergencies. Their training consists of two stages. The first part of training involves learning about constitutional law, marksmanship, defense tactics and other law enforcement techniques. The second phase focuses on what they can expect to face in the field. This involves perfecting marksmanship skills.
Changes After September 11th
There were numerous changes that occurred to the Federal Air Marshal Service after September 11, 2001. A couple of these include,
- Prior to 9/11/01, the FAM’s missions were focused almost exclusively on international flights/routes. More domestic routes were added after the terrorist attacks.
- Since Air Marshals were small in numbers, they were closely associated with the intelligence community. They had intimate knowledge of the aviation system and all were issued Top Secret Clearance. The Director of FAA Federal Air Marshal program also secured them Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). This allowed them the ability to gather information when evaluating overseas airports. This changed after 9/11/01.
Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR)
The VIPR program falls within the TSA as well. These teams provide an extra layer of random, high visibility presence in the mass transit environment. This program was first created to work in a ‘non-aviation’ environment. The group is comprised of FAM’s and other Federal Law Enforcement Officers. Their focus is to search and detain travelers at ferries, ports, railroad and bus stations, truck weigh stations and special events, such as the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, and State of the Union addresses. They also inspect ships, vehicles, and containers. In 2007, TSA increased the frequency of VIPR deployments from one a month to two per week.
Some government officials have given definitions of the purpose of VIPR teams:
Augmentation: “Augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the US.”
Presence/Detection: “Provide an increased visible deterrent force for all modes of transportation for homeland security.”
Terrorism and Emergencies: “Prepare to respond to a large-scale incident such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster.”
Issues Facing FAM’s
One major issue in the Federal Air Marshal community is sleep deprivation. FAM’s fly most days out of the month and their sleep schedule is very irregular. Often, their flights are extremely long, at odd hours during the day and overnight. Therefore, many of them have broken sleep patterns. A study on CNN found that 75 percent of FAM’s on domestic flights suffer from some level of sleep deprivation, while 84 percent do on international flights. Their job calls for them to be critical at a moment’s notice, and sleep deprivation can make that extremely difficult. The study also states, “the acute and chronic lack of sleep substantially degrades a Federal Air Marshals ability to react and think quickly…”
To learn much more about FAM’s and see what they have said about Harris Federal Law Firm, click below!
Agency Spotlight–Federal Air Marshal Service
How we help
We have helped many Federal Air Marshals with their federal disability retirement claims. With over 50 successful FAMS cases this year, we have helped Federal Air Marshals be approved for lumbar sprains, herniated discs, seizure disorders, chronic pain, Middle Range Hearing Loss, sleep apnea, and much more. Additionally, we offer a discount if you are a member of the Air Marshal Association. If you are a Federal Air Marshal who can no longer perform all your essential job duties, please don’t hesitate to call us at 877-226-2723 to see how we can help you. You can also fill out this inquiry form.