Communications system for air marshals splits Congress

House lawmakers want to amplify air-to-ground communication for federal air marshals, but they must convince their Senate colleagues not to cut $10 million from the program.

In the fiscal 2006 spending measure for the Homeland Security Department, the House included $699 million for the federal air marshal program -- $10,000 more than President Bush requested and $36 million more than provided last year. The funding proposal includes $10 million for an air-to-ground communication system.

"The committee anticipates that this funding level will maintain, or perhaps increase, mission coverage on both domestic and international flights," read the House Appropriations Committee report on the bill. The House passed the measure in May.

The president wants to transfer the $10 million from the air marshals' budget to the department's science and technology division in order to develop the necessary technology for the system.

Congress has funded the initiative over the past few years, and the lawmakers said the department could deploy the communication system next year. House appropriators directed the department to establish a reliable, wireless and secure system that could receive signals while airborne or on the ground, either within the country or abroad.

But House lawmakers must negotiate with their Senate colleagues, who voted to cut $10 million from the request for the air marshal program. The Senate appropriators did not address the communication system in their report.

The Senate passed the spending bill in July. The two chambers will draft a compromise bill this fall and then send it to the president for his signature.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the government placed armed air marshals on passenger airplanes to detect and defeat future terrorist attacks against U.S. air carriers. Now the department is exploring the idea of expanding the air marshals' mission to airport perimeter security, conducting surveillance and investigations, according to House appropriators.

Lawmakers expressed concern that the idea would cross into jurisdictions of other law enforcement agencies, so they required the department to submit a report with its fiscal 2007 budget. The report must outline the scope and impact of expanding the marshals' authority.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.