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The National Rifle Association is out with a Top 10-style list detailing why President Barack Obama is anti-gun. We’re investigating several of the claims on the list. You can see all our fact-checks by clicking back here throughout the week.
Today, we tackle the No. 6 reason why President Barack Obama is bad news for the Second Amendment: "Obama is trying to slash funding for the Armed Pilots Program designed to prevent terror attacks."
(For the record, the NRA list doesn’t rank one reason as being worse than another, so the fact that this claim is No. 6 doesn’t mean it's more serious than, say, No. 10, "Obama admits he's coming for our guns ...")
The "Armed Pilots Program" is officially called the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It’s pretty much what it sounds like.
The federal government has budgeted $25 million a year to deputize and train volunteer commercial pilots to carry firearms on commercial flights. The federal government has not said how many pilots take part.
In the FY 2013 budget, Obama proposed to cut the program’s funding roughly in half, to $12 million.
Here’s how the administration explained the cut in its budget request:
"The Administration proposes to reduce funding for the FFDO program (i.e., deputized, armed pilots) in 2013. As the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) focuses its aviation security activities on programs that mitigate the highest amount of risk at the lowest cost, the Budget has prioritized funding in the same manner. The voluntary FFDO program was created as a ‘last defense’ layer of security at a time when comprehensive aviation screening and other physical security measures were not fully developed or deployed on a system-wide basis. Since 2001, however, there have been a number of enhancements to aviation security. TSA now conducts 100 percent screening of all passengers and their carryon items, has overseen installation of reinforced and locking cockpit doors on aircraft that operate in U.S. airspace, and has increased passenger and flight crew awareness to address security risks. Combined, these improvements have greatly lowered the chances of unauthorized cockpit access and represent a comprehensive and redundant risk-mitigation strategy that begins well before passengers board the aircraft."
In short, the Obama administration said that arming pilots isn’t as important as it use to be, given other security improvements.
Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole also said that the agency has had trouble coordinating schedules of armed pilots, whose flights are set by the airlines, with those of U.S. air marshals managed by the TSA, according to Bloomberg. "In an ideal world, one without budget constraints, we would fully fund the program. We’re not in that environment, so we are taking reductions," he said.
The Republican-led House disagreed.
On June 6, 2012, the House voted not only to reverse Obama’s proposed cuts but to increase the program’s budget to $35 million.
"9/11 woke us up to the reality that we live in a dangerous world. With varied and ever-emerging threats, every effort should be made to make air travel as safe as possible," said Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., who sponsored the amendment. (Cravaack is a former Northwest Airlines pilot who says he was in the Armed Pilots Program.)
Lastly we checked with Brian Darling, a senior fellow for government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation who has been following the issue. Darling noted that the Armed Pilots Program had been funded at the same level since its inception, and that Obama’s decision to cut the program in half seems more like a policy choice than something prompted by budget constraints.
Still, the savings are relatively small. The $12 million-$13 million in potential savings comprises about 0.15 percent of the entire TSA $7.6 billion proposed budget.
The NRA claimed that Obama is "trying to slash funding for the Armed Pilots Program designed to prevent terror attacks."
The Armed Pilots Program was created post-Sept. 11, 2001, to serve as a last-line of defense in a terror attack. And Obama, in his FY 2013 budget proposal, did propose cutting the budget for the program in half.
Obama says the program isn’t as critical as it once was. But that doesn’t contradict the NRA’s claim. We rate it True.
NRA, "Ten Reasons Why Obama is Bad News for the Second Amendment," accessed June 12, 2012
Interview with Brian Darling, Heritage Foundation, June 11, 2012
President Obama’s FY 2013 Budget, accessed June 11, 2012
Obama’s proposed TSA budget, accessed June 11, 2012
Bloomberg, "Pistole Defends Cuts in Armed-Pilot Program," Feb. 28, 2012
U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, "Cravaack Passes Amendment to Improve U.S. Aviation Security in Opposition to Obama's Planned Disarming of Federal Flight Deck Officers," June 6, 2012
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