Earlier this week I had the opportunity to discuss with USA Today the need for the Obama Administration to fill critical vacancies in top federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies.

With the spike in border violence, much of it associated with Mexican drug cartels battle with the Mexican government, we have a greater need than ever to fill the positions of the agencies responsible for protecting our borders — from the DEA and ATF to Customs and Border Protection.

Below is an excerpt of the interview:

Some key Obama administration jobs still unfilled –

Concerned about illegal immigration? No one’s been confirmed to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And as drugs and guns are flowing in from Mexico, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives still need bosses.

Nearly 200 top jobs in the administration remain vacant a year after Obama began planning his ascension to power, the result of stalled nominations, new ethics rules, lengthy background checks and delays in Senate confirmations. More than half the vacancies are at five departments: Justice, State, Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.

“Those are pretty significant policy jobs, and ones that the public ought to be concerned about,” says New York University professor Paul Light, an expert on the federal bureaucracy. “Obama is well on pace right now to set a new record in terms of lateness.”

Empty chairs at key law enforcement agencies weaken their ability to work with international and national partners and get maximum production from employees, says Asa Hutchinson, who led the Drug Enforcement Administration and was undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security.

“You can’t sit at the table with the same level of influence until you have the power of the president behind you,” he says. “Obviously, he’s got other issues on the plate. But these law enforcement positions are critically important.”

Asa Hutchinson is the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is CEO of the Hutchinson Group, a homeland security consulting firm.