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Federal Air Marshal Service to close Pittsburgh office

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 11:29 p.m.

The Pittsburgh field office of the Federal Air Marshal Service is one of six scheduled to close nationwide, costing the region at least 60 jobs.

Air marshals and other employees at the field office, scheduled to close in summer 2015, will be offered positions at other locations. The Pittsburgh office was selected for closure after a risk- and intelligence-based evaluation, Federal Air Marshal spokesman Michael Pascarella said on Wednesday.

Pascarella would not say how many people work at the facility but said it is fewer than 100.

“We need to be where the threat is,” Pascarella said. “As an agency, we'll still be able to cover the flights we deem high risk. We don't want people to think Pittsburgh will be void of air marshal coverage.”

The fact that Pittsburgh is no longer a US Airways hub factored into the decision, he said.

Other offices slated for closure are San Diego and Tampa by the end of the year; Phoenix in summer 2015; and Cincinnati and Cleveland in June 2016. Twenty offices would remain.

Air marshals are a part of the Transportation Security Administration. The agency said in a statement that “the realignment ensures the safety and security of the traveling public while maximizing coverage of flights representing the greatest risk for terrorist activity.”

Elected officials said they would urge the TSA to reconsider. A spokesman for Sen. Bob Casey pegged the number of workers in Pittsburgh at more than 60.

“This decision will impact jobs and could have an impact on safety in Western Pennsylvania,” Casey, D-Scranton, said. “I plan to urge the TSA to reconsider.”

Brad Grantz, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, said Murphy is concerned about the impact on aviation security and local jobs and his office has a briefing with TSA officials on Monday.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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