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Plans to Trim Air Marshal Ranks Denied

From a Times Staff Writer

The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that it has no plans to cut the number of air marshals even as it warns of intelligence that indicates Al Qaeda may be plotting more airline hijackings.

“Recent internal e-mail traffic reported in the press is inaccurate,” said spokesman Brian Turmail. “There are no plans to cut deployments of air marshals or air marshal missions.”

The agency, which has been criticized for having a bloated budget, had sent to Capitol Hill a plan to cut $104 million from the program for the rest of the federal fiscal year, through Sept. 30. Turmail said the proposal involved delaying some training and the hiring of support staff, not layoffs.

Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees TSA spending, said he would oppose any effort to cut the air marshals program. “There is plenty of money in the pipeline to maintain the air marshal program at its current level through the end of the fiscal year,” Rogers said.

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Several thousand air marshals are assigned to fly on routes and individual flights that are deemed to be potential targets for terrorists.


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