WASHINGTON -- The Federal Air Marshal program is rife with acrimony between supervisors and air marshals, creating a climate of "tension, mistrust, and dislike," according to a report by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General, due to be released next week. A copy was obtained by NBC News.
Nearly half the members of the program's work force fear retaliation, more than half believe favoritism is tolerated, and one-fourth feel they've been the subjects of discrimination, the inspector general found. Even so, the report says, these problems "do not appear to have compromised the service's mission."
The review found no proof of widespread discrimination or retaliation. Instead, it found a pervasive perception that there's a problem. Air marshals, it said, "repeatedly portrayed their supervisors as vindictive, aggressive, and guilty of favoritism."
Part of the reason, the report says, is that air marshals are constantly on the move and therefore have limited contact with their supervisors. Decisions by supervisors are sometimes perceived as singling certain individuals out when they are, in fact, the result of system-wide directives, it said. But it also said the program and its supervisors don't do a good enough job of explaining the reasons behind such changes.
While these issues do not appear to have compromised the air marshal mission, the IG says, "these allegations add unnecessary distraction at all levels at a time when mission tempo is high and many in the agency are becoming increasingly concerned about work force burnout and fatigue."
The report makes a number of suggestions for improving management of the program and notes that administrators agree with them. In a statement, the Transportation Security Administration said Friday the air marshal service leadership "has demonstrated its commitment to improving communications within the workforce."
Some of the IG's findings were first reported Friday by CNN, which did some stories in January 2010 about allegations of misconduct and discrimination in the Orlando office of the Air Marshals Service. Those stories prompted three members of Congress to ask the inspector general for an investigation.
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