When expensive stuff that doesn’t work trumps cost-effective stuff that does, we often smell “big government” meddling. Such appears to be the case with the $1 billion/year Federal Air Marshal program, which puts marshals on a relatively few select flights at a cost of $3,300 per. Ouch.
Don’t misunderstand: The program is probably an essential element in post-9/11 “risk-based” defenses against hijacking. The problem arises with another tier of the defense that TSA appears desperate to scrap—armed pilots. At a cost of $17—almost 200 times less—it would seem a logical and economical choice. And it has the potential to cover vastly more flights.
But TSA leadership doesn’t like the program for myriad reasons, at least one of which appears to be craven self-interest at the top: Only by growing TSA headcount and budget do TSA big-wigs make more money themselves, so arming non-employee pilots has little appeal.