- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

Dana Brown, the new director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, never really thought there was a morale problem when he was promoted to the top position in March, but then again, he never asked.

But now he is asking, and the Transportation Security Administration’s 2006 Organizational Satisfaction Survey confirms what he is hearing from his men and women who are protecting America’s skies from another terrorist attack.

“The results are not good,” Mr. Brown said in a five-page memo last week to all agents within the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS).

“Prior to my appointment, I was asked whether I thought the morale in the Federal Air Marshal Service was as bad as what the person asking the question might have heard or read in the media,” Mr. Brown said.

“I responded by saying that I did not think so, and that I could probably provide some anecdotal reasons why not, but that I, in my previous capacity as chief of staff, had really never sat with any federal air marshals and asked them that question,” he said.

“Candidly, the morale was much worse than I thought …” said Mr. Brown, who is conducting “listening session” dinners with marshals, as well as field-office visits.

The Washington Times first began reporting on morale problems within the agency in 2004 and on questionable polices that marshals say threaten air safety, including a dress policy, hotel policy and boarding procedures.

Mr. Brown said in the memo that he wants to “promote significant change” through 14 panels he has assembled to review policies and make recommended changes.

“He’s a candid guy; there’s no spin there,” FAMS spokesman Conan Bruce says of the director’s admission.

“He tries to be responsive, and if a FAM tells him something is wrong, he listens. And when you hear it again and again, you keep listening,” Mr. Bruce said.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff adjusted the dress code last year, and Mr. Bruce says new changes to schedules have also been implemented.

While not commenting on the specifics of the adjusted dress code, marshals say field offices enforce it differently and that jackets and suits are still a requirement at some offices.

And the criticisms continue.

“Nothing has changed at all,” says one air marshal. “I think they are just messing with verbiage.”

Mr. Brown told marshals he is doing away with the hotel policy, which exposed identities of undercover agents.

“Everyone says that’s all great, but all we have is lip service, show us something today. They acknowledge the problems exist, but what are they going to do about it?” the marshal said.

A second survey is under way to find solutions to specific questions, such as boarding procedures that deal with more sensitive security information.

“The whole reason [Mr. Brown] put together the 14 working groups is he wanted to get recommendations from the folks out there doing it. It’s not as simple as reported but very complex, and it can’t be changed with the stroke of a pen,” Mr. Bruce said.

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