In just over two weeks, barring an unanticipated miracle, CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin’s recess appointment will run out. There are many positive things that can be said for how Bersin handled his tenure at CBP, not the least of which is the excellent job he did in reaching out to private sector stakeholders. Bersin had an outstanding resume before he joined CBP and he only burnished those credentials as a public servant while serving in the Reagan Building.
Nevertheless, since it does not appear that Bersin’s nomination is going to be approved by the Senate, reportedly due to the objection of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) who is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, one would have thought DHS or the White House would have announced by now the plan for filling the position once Bersin leaves.
Deputy CBP Commissioner David Aguilar, former Chief of the Border Patrol, is likely to step in to fill the position. But rumors “on the street” are that Aguilar has not been informed of what is to happen. If that is the case, it is a mystery that he would be kept in the dark as to DHS and White House intentions for this critically important position.
CBP has run without a confirmed commissioner before, but the situation today is very different from what happened previously. One need only think about the circumstances of Christmas Day 2009, when Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to take down an airplane by lighting explosives in his underwear, to understand why having a CBP Commissioner in place is necessary.
Until DHS or the White House make their plans for Bersin’s replacement, even on an acting basis, clear and unequivocal, one wonders whether they even care about who leads this vital organization. If they do care, their silence is sending a disturbing message to CBP’s employees, partners and stakeholders.
Secretary Napolitano, now is your chance to end the confusion and instill confidence in your leadership of DHS. Until the anticipated vacancy in the CBP Commissioner’s position is addressed, however, we are left to wonder, Whither CBP?