Ridge reorganizes homeland agencies

Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge announced Jan. 30 a major reorganization of agencies within the new department, which handles border security and investigations, in a move to tighten control over U.S. ports and land borders.

In his first act since the department was launched last week, Ridge said he is combining various border agencies into two new divisions that will go into operation March 1. They are the:

* Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, which will handle the borders and ports of entry.

* Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will handle investigations and enforcement.

"The sheer depth and breadth of this nation ... means that one slip, one gap, one vengeful person can threaten the lives of our citizens at any time, in any number of ways," he said during a tour of Miami's seaport, where he announced the reorganization.

In a fact sheet the department issued, officials said the reorganization is intended to "join the investigators with the investigators and the inspectors with the inspectors to capitalize on expertise and resources."

The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection will focus on the movement of people and goods across U.S. borders. The customs commissioner will head this new bureau, and it will bring together 30,000 employees, including 17,000 inspectors in the Agriculture Quarantine Inspection program, which is now part of the Homeland Security Department.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be headed by an assistant secretary who will report to the undersecretary for border and transportation security.

This new bureau will join the enforcement and investigation arms of the U.S. Customs Service and the investigative and enforcement functions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Federal Protective Service. The reorganization involves 14,000 employees, including 5,500 criminal investigators and 4,000 federal immigration and deportation services workers.

In addition, Ridge aides said the president would request a large increase in funds for the new department in fiscal 2004—$36.2 billion—nearly a 10 percent increase above the combined budgets of the agencies being rolled into the department.

"The U.S. government's move to reorganize border and transportation agencies is important because it safeguards its citizens while allowing seamless global trade," said Debby Mayberry-Jensen, vice president of global trade and compliance, at Open Harbor Inc., a global trade management services company.

"With the integration of departmental functions, information-sharing and processes will become more streamlined," she added.

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