Immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) was closed to general aviation aircraft because of its proximity to downtown Washington, D.C.
After conducting a thorough security review in partnership with other Departments of Homeland Security and Defense agencies, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) developed a security plan that balances the special security needs of the airport with the economic importance of general aviation flights.
The plan, called the DCA Access Standard Security Program, or DASSP, allows a total of 48 general aviation flights a day leaving from designated "gateway airports". All of these flights must have an Armed Security Officer (ASO) onboard.
ASOs are specially trained law enforcement officers who are authorized by the TSA to fly onboard each general aviation aircraft operating into or out of DCA.
In order to serve as an ASO, interested persons must be nominated by a DASSP approved (or pending) company, meet certain eligibility criteria, and complete an application process that includes background, criminal history, and employment verification checks. Applicants meeting the established criteria must then successfully complete two days of training conducted by the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), at which time they will be credentialed and authorized by the TSA to serve on scheduled general aviation flights into DCA.