Several hundred employees serving in federal air marshal field offices across the country will be asked to relocate as part of a workforce realignment the agency will complete in the next three years.
By the end of the summer of 2016 there will be just 20 air marshal field offices across the country. Currently there are 26.
The offices selected for closure were part of a risk and intelligence-based analysis, said FAMS Public Affairs Officer Michael Pascarella. Part of the decision also had to do with how the airline industry is making changes.
“We have to be where the threat is,” Pascarella said. “Also, if our stakeholders are moving, we have to move with them.”
The decision to close offices did not have to do with budget cuts, he said.
The first offices to close are in San Diego and Tampa. They will be closed by the end of this year. Next will be offices in Phoenix and Pittsburgh. Those closures will be complete by June of next year.
And by June of 2016, the offices in Cincinnati and Cleveland will no longer be open.
Pascarella described the offices on the closure list as “smaller offices” serving smaller airports. Since the airports have less of an international focus on flight services, he said, the threat at these airport locations is smaller.
All employees will be offered positions at other locations and provided relocation fees.
The number of air marshals on planes across the country has gone up substantially since the attacks on the World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001. The day before the attacks there were 40 marshals assigned to patrolling the skies, Pascarella said.
Pascarella and the agency would not provide any exact numbers relating to how many air marshals are currently working at the agency, citing security reasons.
Below is the statement received via email from Pascarella:
“As part of efforts to reallocate our workforce to allow the most effective security in the most efficient manner, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is realigning Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) field offices, while maintaining the FAM workforce. To be clear, no positions are being eliminated and this will not adversely impact the ability of the FAMS to maintain coverage aboard flights arriving from and departing for the affected airports.
“The realignment ensures the safety and security of the traveling public while maximizing coverage of flights representing the greatest risk for terrorist activity.”