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Congressman John Duncan

Representing the 2nd District of Tennessee

Flight Safety and Your Tax Dollars

February 5, 2016

A couple of months ago, in interviews both by National Public Radio and CBS News, I described the air marshal program as possibly the most needless, useless, wasteful program in the entire Federal Government. Shortly thereafter, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial entitled ``It's Time to Ground America's Air Marshals'' and said, ``Duncan has a point.''

The editorial pointed out that there is no data showing marshals successfully put down in-flight threats and added: ``In fact, passengers are apparently more likely to stop troublemakers on board than armed marshals.'' The Times said that air marshals are a placebo the country should stop taking. I became concerned a few years ago about this when I read in USA Today that more air marshals had been arrested than arrests by air marshals. At that point, the Service was costing $200 million per arrest.

I was able to get the Appropriations Committee to start reducing their funding from a high of $966 million, after they had been given big increases each year, to $790 million this fiscal year. Having airport screeners and simply locking aircraft doors have done much more good than the many, many billions we have spent just so air marshals can fly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, usually in first class.

This money is money that could and should be spent on much more cost-effective security measures. In fact, Mr. Speaker, The Wall Street Journal, a few months after 9/ 11, when they noticed that almost every department and agency in the Federal Government was sending up requests for more money based on security, said a wise legislative policy to follow would be that, from now on, if any legislation came to the Congress with the word ``security'' attached, it should be given twice the scrutiny and four times the weight.

Unfortunately, we have wasted many, many billions on different programs in this country just because they had the word security attached. We need to take the advice of The Wall Street Journal and give those bills much more scrutiny.