|OIG Report Out On Misconduct Within The Federal Air Marshal Service|
February 9, 2012 - The Department of Homeland Security Office Of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a long awaited federal investigation into allegations of age, gender and racial discrimination within the Federal Air Marshal Service. The findings conclude there is no "widespread discrimination and retaliation." However, the Federal Air Marshal Service does have problems that need to be corrected.
January 2010, CNN reported allegations of misconduct and
illegal employment discrimination and retaliation in the
Federal Air Marshal Service?s Orlando field office.
The report included descriptions of an agency
rife with cronyism; age, gender, and racial
discrimination; and unfair treatment in promotions,
assignments, and discipline.
Also included were photographs of a game board modeled
after the television show ?Jeopardy!? created and
displayed by supervisors there, with categories
containing derogatory nicknames referring to veterans,
females, African-Americans, Hispanics, and lesbians and
Senator Bill Nelson and Congressmen Edolphus Towns and
Darrell Issa asked Department of Homeland Security
Office of Inspector General (OIG) to review the
allegations in Orlando and throughout the agency as well
as the circumstances surrounding the game board.
In its report, OIG reported that although individual employees may have experienced discrimination or retaliation, its review did not support a finding of widespread discrimination and retaliation within the Federal Air Marshal Service.
However, employees? perceptions of discrimination and retaliation are extensive, and OIG heard too many negative and conflicting accounts of events to dismiss them. Many Federal Air Marshals and some supervisors think they have been discriminated against, fear retaliation, and believe there is much favoritism.
There is a great deal of tension, mistrust, and dislike between non-supervisory and supervisory personnel in field offices around the country. OIG identified factors that contributed to strained relations and became the basis for the allegations. Limited transparency in management decisions is also at the center of fears of retaliation and perceptions that management is mistreating its workforce.
These issues pose a difficult challenge for the agency,
but they do not appear to have compromised the service?s
mission. Transportation Security Administration and
Federal Air Marshal Service senior leadership are
committed to addressing these issues and have
implemented several proactive initiatives to address
September 11, 2001, there were 33 Federal Air Marshals.
In November 2001, the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) was created within the U.S.
Department of Transportation, and the Federal Air
Marshal Service (FAMS) moved from the Federal Aviation
Administration to TSA.
At that time, the Deputy Secretary of
Transportation issued a mandate to recruit, hire, and
train thousands of Federal Air Marshals by July 1, 2002.
FAMS met this mandate. To help achieve it, FAMS hired
numerous U.S. Secret Service (USSS) retirees because of
their experience working in a protective-oriented
agency. This was made easier by a provision regarding
their federal retirement, which allowed them to continue
receiving their federal retirement annuity and a federal
law enforcement salary at the same time.
TSA also sought experienced retirees from other federal
law enforcement agencies. To hire them, TSA requested
and obtained waivers of the general restriction
prohibiting employees from receiving two federal
paychecks at the same time. FAMS eventually received
5-year waivers of the prohibition, and then hired
experienced managers from other federal law enforcement
agencies. FAMS received more than 175,000 applications
and hired Federal Air Marshals from state and local
police departments, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S.
military, the U.S. Border Patrol, and other federal law
Between 2003 and 2005, FAMS underwent three
organizational changes. In March 2003, TSA, including
FAMS, moved from the Department of Transportation to the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In November 2003,
FAMS moved within DHS from TSA to U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement. In October 2005, it returned to
TSA. In June 2008, TSA promoted Robert Bray to Director
FAMS operates many field offices throughout the United
States. Field office locations and staffing levels are
determined based on intelligence, the FAMS Concept of
Operations, and proximity to airports. A Supervisory Air
Marshal in Charge (SAC) manages each office, assisted by
a Deputy Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge or Assistant
Supervisory Air Marshals in Charge (ASACs), depending on
the size of the field office, and Supervisory Federal
Air Marshals (SFAMs).
Federal Air Marshals make up the majority of staff in each field office. Most Federal Air Marshals are deployed on commercial domestic and international flights. A few work in ground-based positions in the field offices to support flying Federal Air Marshals and carry out other responsibilities.
the size of FAMS increased, workforce issues also
increased. The rapid buildup of FAMS, coupled with the
task of merging the cultures of the many law enforcement
agencies from which Federal Air Marshals were hired,
proved to be a challenge. In May 2006, the House
Judiciary Committee released an investigative report
stating that FAMS encountered numerous problems during
the rapid buildup that severely affected morale and
potentially national security.
The committee reported that Federal Air Marshals in many
field offices expressed concerns with policies and
reluctance to approach managers due to fear of
Individual Federal Air Marshals have filed informal and
formal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints,
Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) appeals, and
lawsuits alleging discrimination, retaliation, or
improper personnel actions of one form or another. The
majority of cases were decided in the agency?s favor.
Some were settled prior to the issuance of a decision by
the MSPB or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
FAMS employees filed 280 informal EEO complaints from
September 2006 through May 2010, and 174 formal EEO
complaints from September 2006 through April 2011, in
fiscal year (FY) 2010, the number of formal complaints
rose sharply. For both informal and formal complaints,
the primary areas on which employees based their
complaints were nonsexual harassment, promotion or nonselection and reprisal.
There were three findings of discrimination against FAMS
in FY 2009 from claims initiated in 2002, 2004 and
2006, respectively. There was one finding of
discrimination against FAMS from September 2009 through
January 2010, stemming from a claim initiated in 2004.
the 109 cases that had received decisions, 103 (94%)
were decided in favor of the agency and 6 (6%) against
the agency. Twenty-five cases were settled prior to a
decision, and 27 were pending as of June 2011.
In July 2011, the MSPB upheld the agency?s
removal of a Federal Air Marshal in a whistleblower
Some Federal Air Marshals have also filed federal
lawsuits in U.S. District Courts alleging discrimination
and retaliation. From September 2005 to August 2011, 40
lawsuits alleging discrimination by FAMS were filed in
U.S. District Courts. The agency won summary judgment or
dismissal at the district court level in 22 of the 40
cases. The complainant in one case appealed the district
court?s decision to summarily dismiss the case, and FAMS
then settled the case. Complainants in three other cases
also have appealed the district courts? decisions; the
appeals are pending. In addition, 10 cases were settled
and 8 are pending.
CNN's report on the Orlando Field Office ?Jeopardy!? Board
- CNN reported that managers within the FAMS Orlando
field office had created a game board styled after the
television game show ?Jeopardy!? The content of the game
board, and a Federal Air Marshal?s interpretation of it
in the form of a second game board containing more
explicit descriptions, was extremely offensive and
outraged many Federal Air Marshals, who alleged that
field office managers were targeting them. Even though
the incident occurred several years ago, news of it
brought the agency under further scrutiny and ultimately
resulted in changes within the Orlando field office.
OIG assessed the circumstances surrounding the game board and the field office?s response. It conducted interviews of 66 personnel in Orlando and Tampa, including the SAC, every supervisor, one of the employees who created the game board, and numerous non-supervisory Federal Air Marshals.
Based on their recollections, the news report appeared
to surprise the field office?s senior managers. The game
board existed only in Orlando, and was not the source of
allegations of retaliation and discrimination in other
field offices. Federal Air Marshals interviewed in other
field offices had limited knowledge of it.
The game board was created by an SFAM, a Federal Air
Marshal and a civilian training officer in the training
three of these individuals have since left FAMS. The
Federal Air Marshal, who later became an SFAM and is no
longer a Federal Air Marshal, asserted that the game
board was used only for several weeks in the spring of
2007, but another employee said it was on display
frequently over many months and he last saw it in 2008.
The Federal Air Marshal said he and a few others?some but perhaps not all members of the training staff?played the game and that it was used to make fun of those on the training staff, not others. OIG asked him to explain each of the game board?s categories. He could not remember some, and he provided relatively innocuous explanations for others.
OIG interviewed three additional members of the training
staff who were knowledgeable about the game board at the
time it was displayed. One said the training staff used
the game board to make fun of Federal Air Marshals they
disliked, including African-Americans, gays and
lesbians, and others who had filed complaints against
the office. The other two said they saw the board but
did not do anything about it.
The former Federal Air Marshal who photographed the game
board while it hung in the training office did not show
it to members of Congress or the media until after FAMS
removed him in December 2009.
He said he drew a second game board, which
contained more patently offensive categories, to help
the congressional staff understand the original game
board?s categories better.
emailed images of both game boards to a few Federal Air
Marshals in Orlando and Tampa.
One or more of those Federal Air Marshals
forwarded the email to others on staff.
An unidentified Federal Air Marshal distributed
paper copies to several Federal Air Marshals via office
mailboxes. The recreated game board generated outrage,
anger, and sadness. The removal of the Federal Air
Marshal who drew the second game board was upheld by the
Most of the Orlando field office did not see the game
board until it appeared in news media because the
training offices were usually locked and most Federal
Air Marshals did not have access to them. Federal Air
Marshals felt belittled by the game board because they
interpreted one or more of the categories as
representing groups to which they belonged. For example,
some Federal Air Marshals said the category ?Our Gang?
referred to African-Americans.
They and others who felt targeted by the game board said
it provided more proof that management disliked them and
it helped explain why they had not received promotions,
awards, or international flight assignments, or had been
disciplined unjustly. The training staff may have
targeted people on the game board, but OIG found no
evidence that using the game board resulted in passing
individuals? names to other managers for harsh or
This was not the first or only incident driving Federal
Air Marshals? allegations of retaliation and
discrimination in the Orlando field office. The Orlando
field office was under scrutiny prior to the CNN report
and the start of OIG review.
In October 2009, TSA?s Office of Inspections
(OOI) had begun investigating numerous allegations
concerning supervisors? conduct.
The basis for its investigation was allegations of
misuse of authority or position.
completed its Report of Investigation in March 2010 and
provided it to TSA and FAMS senior leadership. In
February 2010, TSA OOI began a follow-up investigation
and completed its Report of Investigation in April 2010.
TSA OOI substantiated the allegation that
personnel in the Orlando field office training division
played the game board.
The environment in the Orlando field office,
specifically working relationships between management
and non-supervisory Federal Air Marshals, appeared
tense. OIG noted much anxiety among its workforce, and
the degree of animosity and mistrust that supervisors
and non- supervisors described in interviews was
Some individuals reported they did not experience or
know of any retaliatory actions in the Orlando and Tampa
field offices, the majority of non-supervisory Federal
Air Marshals expressed fears of retaliation, said they
were retaliated against, or cited knowledge of
retaliation against others.
Many Federal Air Marshals said they feared retaliation
from managers for speaking with OIG and requested
anonymity. In addition, at their request OIG conducted
numerous interviews at offsite locations because
interviewees did not want to be seen talking.
One Federal Air Marshal said the last time an Office of
Inspector General (OIG) team was there, they thought
management retaliated against them for their involvement
in those matters. Another Federal Air Marshal believed
management was out to ?get? him and he would be
suspended soon for something, but discipline records do
not indicate that a suspension occurred.
Federal Air Marshals also alleged a need for transparency and constructive comments in the promotion process. There were allegations of individuals who were promoted because they were part of management?s clique even though they were not as qualified as others or had a record of discipline against them. Some Federal Air Marshals feel they are more qualified than some of those who were promoted and do not understand why they were passed over.
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