CAPTAIN STEPHEN LUCKEY, CHAIRMAN
NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION
BEFORE THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS
RURAL ENTERPRISE, AGRICULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY
ON A SMALL BUSINESS COMPONENT TO THE FEDERAL FLIGHT DECK OFFICER PROGRAM
JANUARY 15, 2004
Good afternoon. I am Captain Stephen Luckey, Chairman of the National Security Committee of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 66,000 pilots who fly for 43 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. We appreciate being invited to appear before this Committee and for your interest in a subject that is very important to us, the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program.
The Air Line Pilots Association was the first organization to call for the creation of the FFDO program, which became a reality when the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act (APATA) was enacted as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. ALPA applauds the Congress for its vision in recognizing the need for the program, the benefits that it offers, and for passing the legislation that mandated its creation. We also express our gratitude for the opportunity to have worked hand-in-hand with Congressional leaders on this most important initiative.
In January 2003, ALPA began participation in a Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-sponsored industry working group, convened to provide guidance to TSA in its efforts to establish the FFDO program. In April 2003, 44 pilots successfully completed the prototype FFDO training curriculum at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Glynco, GA. Since then, hundreds of FFDOs have been trained, deputized and field deployed. The majority of these new, federal law enforcement officers are ALPA members. ALPA clearly has a vested interest in the program, and we enjoy a close working relationship with the TSA in its deployment.
Recent world events have clearly demonstrated the need for, and the value of, the FFDO program. Information gathered by intelligence agencies here and abroad indicates that commercial aviation remains a primary target for terrorist activities. Government has publicly recognized the added value of the program as a key layer of aviation security. This fact is demonstrated with the recent passage of legislation enabling pilots of all-cargo aircraft to commence training as FFDOs in calendar year 2004, and by TSA’s recent expansion of its FFDO training capabilities at the law enforcement training facility in Artesia, NM.
Clearly, from a security perspective, the FFDO program represents significant value to the aviation industry and the nation’s infrastructure. The TSA, initially skeptical about the program’s merits, now publicly points to its success and its value as an additional layer of security in the protection of commercial aviation.
When viewed from an economic perspective, the program’s value is abundantly apparent. The aviation industry and the nation benefit from the services of pilots who volunteer to serve as federal law enforcement officers. The return on the government’s initial investment in training and equipping an FFDO is considerable. Associated maintenance costs are also extremely economical in view of the fact that an FFDO receives no compensation for protective services provided to the nation, and also considering that an FFDO must personally absorb the costs of travel, food and lodging associated with government-sponsored FFDO training.
INITIAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS
The FFDO training process must meet certain goals. First, it must be conducted in a standardized, consistent fashion, and provide FFDOs with the best tools, knowledge and skills needed to effectively accomplish their mission. The elements of quality and uniformity of training are crucial. The curriculum must also be readily adaptable to meet changing needs and conditions. Training updates must be easily deployable and consistently provided.
Additionally, but of no less significance, the training process must provide the FFDO with a sense of institutional pride and belonging. It is critical that FFDOs understand that they are deputized federal law enforcement officers, trained and supported by the federal government to protect the aviation component of the nation’s infrastructure. The real and perceived value of this key element of the training process, particularly during initial training, should not be underestimated.
The TSA has implemented an extremely effective initial training curriculum, designed to prepare FFDOs for the challenges that they will face when field deployed. This fact is born out through the statements of numerous candidates who have successfully completed the program. In addition, the training site at Artesia, New Mexico, although it presents logistical difficulties, is highly praised for being extremely well equipped, staffed, and capable of expansion. With its recent doubling of training capacity, through-put capabilities have dramatically increased. It also conveniences pilots by providing them food and lodging accommodations at an affordable cost. This factor is significant in view of the fact that pilots must personally pay these costs incurred during the training program.
In order to make certain that FFDO training goals are reached, initial training should continue to be provided at federal law enforcement training facilities. It is our view that training at private facilities with private trainers may be less appropriate for initial training because the full week of training given to FFDO candidates needs to be standardized for all students and presented in a federal law enforcement environment. It is worth noting that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies send their officer candidates to academies that are owned and operated by their respective governments, not private facilities. This ensures that the training meets the government’s high standards and is supervised, on location, by those government trainers. No other federal law enforcement officer candidates receive initial training at a private facility and we do not believe that the FFDO training should set such an unwarranted precedent. Provision of FFDO training by other than federal trainers at federal facilities would call into question whether the program is actually a federal law enforcement officer program, or something else. We can see no reason to create an environment where such a question might be raised.
RECURRENT TRAINING REQUIREMENTS
Regarding re-current training, the TSA has taken great care to plan a system that is safe, effective and convenient for volunteer pilots who must arrange their work and personal schedules to accommodate training requirements. Government or private facilities could well be incorporated into this portion of FFDO training, with certain safeguards being implemented. Their use can complement the program, by providing strategically located, federally certified, professional training facilities where FFDOs will maintain skills proficiency and be afforded the opportunity to receive updated training. This approach provides a win-win for all involved – the TSA can offer high quality training at multiple locations across the country and pilots will be able to schedule the few hours needed for the training close by to minimize their out-of-pocket costs and time away from home.
For any re-current FFDO training that is administered at non-federal training facilities, a federal representative should be on site during all training exercises to oversee their administration and to ensure their quality and consistency with federal standards. Any non-federal trainer should be federally certified as proficient to provide the FFDO re-current training. The curriculum should be presented in a manner that reinforces the FFDOs understanding that the training is being offered under the auspices of his/her parent federal agency, the TSA.
We commend TSA for the significant amount of time and resources invested in the development of the FFDO program. As the initiative matures and more is learned about its daily operation, protocols and potential, possibilities for improvement of the existing program are being identified. ALPA is encouraging the TSA to continue its efforts to refine the FFDO program and to best utilize the untapped potential contained therein. Sensitive Security Information (SSI) restrictions prohibit more specific discussion of this topic in a public forum, but we remain available to discuss our thoughts with the TSA on additional ways to best serve the nation through the FFDO program.
If the federal government pursues a private sector component to recurrent FFDO training, we would urge that our recommendations for it be given strong consideration. We look forward to continuing dialogue with Congress aimed at maximizing benefits from the FFDO program.
Thank you for inviting us to testify today and for your kind attention.