Rand Paul questions Sec. Napolitano about arming airplane pilots

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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At the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, Sen. Rand Paul questioned Sec. Napolitano over whether or not pilots should be armed.

Though his tone remained calm, Paul seemed to scold her, saying, “zeroing out the funding shows a lack of commitment to the idea of self-defense and sends a huge signal to terrorists around world…”

Video and transcript below:Here


SEN. PAUL: Madam Secretary, thank you for coming today and for your testimony. Are you in favor of having our commercial pilots armed? 

HON. NAPOLITANO: I think properly trained and if they are — have gone through our Federal Flight Deck Officer program, arming can be appropriate, yes.

SEN. PAUL: I guess I’m concerned because in your budget, the Administration’s budget, we zeroed out the funding for training of pilots. I think that’s been done a couple of times and we had to add it back in. We’re wondering about your commitment to arming pilots.

HON. NAPOLITANO: Well, I’ll tell you the reason why we zeroed it out, Senator, and that is – and it goes to a lot of the changes in the budget. We’re moving to risk-based. And an FFDO program is not risk-based. It’s just happenstance, where you happen to have a pilot on board that went through the training or not. We’re offering the training to air carriers if they want their pilots covered. But we would rather stick with the FAMS [Federal Air Marshal Service], who are portion-based on risk.

SEN. PAUL: I don’t think I can over emphasize the importance of deterrence and part of deterrence is not knowing who’s armed and who’s not armed, not knowing whose house has guns and whose doesn’t. That’s why we don’t want registries published of who owns guns and who don’t. I feel better even if 5 percent of the pilots have it because the terrorists don’t know which 5 percent of the pilots have it.

I think zeroing out the funding shows a lack of commitment to the idea of self-defense and sends a huge signal to terrorists around world if we’re t not going to arm our pilots. In fact, I think we need to go the opposite direction. I think we have one training facility in New Mexico where the pilots are trained. Is that where they’re trained? Anyway, the pilots complain about the cost, expense, also, and the time away. It’s a 48-hour program. We have training facilities for policemen in every state. I don’t see why we couldn’t cooperate, make it a lot cheaper.

I’m for saving money. We have all kinds of sunk costs in training facilities for police officers, state troopers, you know, shouldn’t have to be done in one place. You’ve got a manual, send the manual around, let them learn how to do it and have it done.

We have conceal and carry in most of the states around the country. There’s no reason why you can’t have local training. I would take military officers who have had extensive training already and exempt them from half the program so they can save time and expense on getting it done. But I think the idea of deterrence can’t be measured. You can’t, you know, you can’t measure how important it is to have deterrence. But I think that a lot of us would argue that having pilots armed is a great deal of deterrence and we shouldn’t send any indication to any terrorist around the world that we aren’t serious about having our pilots armed. Thank you.