As of today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is under the leadership of Acting Commissioner Jayson Ahern. Commissioner Ralph Basham retired after decades of public service on Friday and leaves CBP in the good hands of Ahern.
CBP has a well-deserved reputation, built on the two centuries of U.S. Customs, as a proud organization led by career officials who have developed solid game plans to balance their law enforcement and counter-terrorism responsibilities with the need to facilitate legitimate travel and shipping. CBP has been blessed with excellent leadership under Commissioners Robert Bonner and Basham since its creation in 2003. However, in many ways it really would be more appropriately led by a non-partisan law enforcement official as are the FBI, US Marshals, Coast Guard, and Secret Service.
That’s not likely due to the political sensitivity of immigration enforcement issues managed by CBP’s Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations, but hopefully when the Obama Administration nominates a new Commissioner, he or she will trust the career staff to continue an agenda has been working effectively.
In the meantime, CBP is in good hands with Acting Commissioner Ahern, who has a well-earned reputation as an effective manager who can navigate the choppy political waters inside DHS and the Congress. CBP’s budget, personnel, and areas of responsibility have grown substantially over the past several budget cycles, but Ahern and his team have been able to launch good risk-management programs like Global Entry for passengers and the high risk trade corridors for cargo.
While we are waiting for a new political boss to show up, CBP will perform just fine.