Hutchinson to leave DHS

Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department's undersecretary of the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, will apparently resign March 1, according to news reports today.

The former Arkansas congressman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper that it was "just a good time to change for me personally and for the department," the Associated Press reported today. He said he was disappointed he wasn't chosen to succeed DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, who is leaving his post. Hutchinson's name was floated as a possible successor.

"Under Secretary Hutchinson championed our biometric technology entry/exit system with the implementation of US-VISIT and has overseen increased detection, detention and removal of illegal immigrants throughout the country," said Ridge in a prepared statement. "His leadership efforts to provide the latest technology and tools to the 110,000 employees of the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, the largest in the department, have enabled us to keep our country safe and secure. Additionally, he strengthened relationships with foreign governments which has enhanced our partnerships in the fight against terrorism."

After President Bush's first choice for DHS secretary, Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, withdrew his nomination, Bush nominated Michael Chertoff, a federal appeals court judge and former Justice Department official, to head the department.

Hutchinson, whose directorate is responsible for improving the security of national transportation systems and land and maritime borders, oversees the department's largest component, including about 110,000 employees and a $16 billion budget.

Many well-known homeland security initiatives are part of the directorate, including the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Technology Indicator program, which uses biometrics to track international visitors. Other components, such as Customs and Border Protection, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Transportation Security Administration have been at the forefront of using advanced technologies, such as surveillance; screening; inspection; database integration; and chemical, biological and radiological detection sensors.

Hutchinson, who is also a former federal drug czar, said he might run for Arkansas governor in 2006. Last month, the Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based publication, had reported that he had wanted to run for the state office.

In addition to Hutchinson, a number of high-profile DHS officials announced their resignations, including Ridge, Adm. James Loy, the department's deputy secretary; Gen. Frank Libutti, undersecretary of the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate; and Robert Liscouski, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at IAIP.

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