The Transportation Security Administration’s plan to hire the use of a firing range within a 20 mile radius of LaGuardia Airport in order to train TSA workers has prompted concerns that the federal agency is planning to arm its agents as part of a massive expansion.
A solicitation posted to the FedBizOpps website yesterday details Homeland Security’s “requirement for a firearms range to conduct mandatory quarterly qualifications and other firearms training.”
“The range shall be within a 20 mile radius of the New York LaGuardia Airport. Furthermore, the range must be in a location that can be accessed by vehicle from the New York LaGuardia Airport without crossing a bridge and/or incurring a toll,” states the solicitation.
The proposed indoor range must have 10-15 firing points and be available for block booking over time periods of 5-8 hours. It must also include, “a separate entrance/exit which will permit DHS personnel to enter/exit to the aforementioned 15 point area without interacting with the general public.”
DHS personnel will use the facility for 25 days out of every quarter and almost half a million rounds will be fired per year. A separate briefing rooms for students is also requested. Range rules must “allow shooters to draw and fire from the holster and from concealment” as well as permitting “tactical move and shoot drills”.
The deal to hire a facility is scheduled to be in place by September 1, 2013.
A Government Security News report confirms that the firing range will be used by the TSA to train “its employees and DHS personnel”.
Why would the TSA want to train its employees to use firearms at a facility close to a major airport when currently TSA agents working inside US airports are not armed?
Federal air marshals acting under the jurisdiction of the TSA are currently armed, but the scope of the firearms range the TSA is seeking to acquire clearly suggests it will be used on a much more widespread basis than simply for training air marshals.
The notion that the Department of Homeland Security is looking to arm TSA workers in the near future would also partly provide an answer as to why the federal agency has been acquiring bullets in such huge numbers over the course of the last 14 months.
An even more disturbing scenario would see armed TSA agents patrolling transport hubs in the US or even the streets of major cities, as Jesse Jackson called for earlier this year.
This would represent a massive expansion of the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) program, where teams of armed TSA officers patrol railroad stations, bus stations, ferries, car tunnels, ports, subways, truck weigh stations, rest areas, and special events.
VIPR teams currently conduct around 8,000 operations a year. As well as providing security at transport hubs, VIPR teams are now being used to keep tabs on fans at sporting events.
Some people may question the sanity of arming TSA agents given that a significant number of them have proven to be prone to criminal behaviorand ego-driven outbursts. The TSA has also repeatedly hired people with criminal records to work in security.
The federal agency launched another controversial policy over the weekend when it announced a new pilot program under which sniffer dogs would be used to screen passengers.