Apparently the U.S. isn't going to cut air marshals after all, says Reuters. There's a catch, though:
...Roehrkasse said operations were continuing as before and marshals would still be deployed on "critical" flights. He said some planned spending -- like for advanced training and increased administrative staff -- for fiscal 2003 would be postponed as part of efforts to cut costs.
Gotta pay for those tax cuts....
UPDATE: I should add that members of Congress (from both parties) are peeved. AP reports:
Lawmakers from both parties said they would block any effort to reduce funding for air marshals....
The Transportation Security Administration asked Congress last Friday for permission to cut $104 million, or about 20 percent, of the funding for the air marshal program to help offset the agency's $900 million budget deficit....
It's unclear how many of the estimated several thousand air marshal jobs could be affected by the proposed cuts.
Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Wednesday that the proposed budget cut actually is $74 million because the air marshals had $30 million left over from last year. That would mean the cuts would apply only to an increase in support staff and some advanced training, he said. There are no plans right now to cut air marshal jobs, he said.
Note the weasel-word "now."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and other lawmakers also were upset by reports that air marshals had received a directive saying they would no longer be allowed to fly missions requiring overnight stays to save money on hotel bills. Such a move would reduce the number of cross-country and international flights with marshals on board.
A Homeland Security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no directive was sent by the agency. It was not clear whether the idea has been abandoned.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge would only say that every available air marshal is being deployed....
About 5 percent of the marshals quit or were fired in the past year, according to TSA spokesman Brian Turmail. He would not say whether those positions had been filled....
What a mess.
And did you miss this when it happened? I did:
Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, tried unsuccessfully last week to add $50 million to a spending bill to keep the air marshals at full strength this year. His proposal was defeated 32-21 along party lines.