National Defense

Securing Our Skies: Federal Flight Deck Officer Program

In 2003, the U.S. government created the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program to train and deputize commercial airline pilots to serve as the last line of defense to protect airliners from terrorist attacks. Since that time, thousands of pilots have gone through a thorough screening and qualification process and rigorous training to become deputized as FFDOs—trained, professional airline pilots who assume responsibility for protecting the flight deck with lethal force. FFDOs are not compensated for their service. The program is highly effective and efficient, costing approximately $20 per protected flight. Unfortunately, in recent years this program has been targeted for budget elimination and significant cutbacks. ALPA has been at the forefront in defending this program and fighting to maintain its funding levels with significant support from the U.S. Congress. The FFDO program began with a budget of $10 million in 2003 and has been funded at nearly $25 million per year since 2004.

The Transportation Security Administration has renewed its efforts to provide effective management of the FFDO program, and those efforts are paying dividends in improved management processes, procedures, and equipment. To date, the FFDO program has proven to be one of the safest, most reliable, and cost-effective measures available to the U.S. government to aid in protecting passengers and the air travel industry. The TSA has for several years touted the FFDO program as an important layer of security that is “capable of stopping a terrorist attack."

Flight Plan

Flight Plan: Congress should continue to reject the administration’s misguided proposals to cut funding for this critical, effective, and highly efficient security program. Adequate funding for the FFDO program is crucial so that initial and recurrent training of pilots can continue unabated. Increases in funding will enable the program to grow as necessary to further our risk-based security objectives. Proper funding for FFDO would enable and provide means for better education and more advanced training methods. The program is funded through annual appropriations by the House and Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security.