Secret Service director tapped for top Customs post

Ralph Basham, director of the Secret Service, will be nominated by President Bush to become the next Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner.

He would replace acting commissioner Deborah Spero. She has held that position since the retirement of the CBP’s first commissioner, Robert Bonner, who returned to the private sector last year.

“Ralph’s extensive law enforcement career, his work internationally and within several components of the department make him a superb fit to lead CBP’s vital mission,” Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a written statement.

CBP oversees high-profile programs designed to improve security at land and coastal points of entry without hampering trade. The agency is also overseeing a comprehensive, multibillion-dollar initiative to improve border security, which it plans to award by September.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 14,000 CBP employees, said Basham’s first order of business would be to address serious morale problems.

The leadership there “essentially has turned a deaf ear not only to the ideas of its workforce, but to their needs in terms of resources, staffing and training as well,” she said in a press release.

Basham, who began his career at the Secret Service in 1970, served in various field, supervisory and management positions. In 1998, he became director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which trains most federal law enforcement officers and state and local officers. Four years later, he was named chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration where he supervised the hiring of federal security directors at the country’s airports.

In January 2003, Basham was named the Secret Service’s director. Bush also intends to name 23-year Secret Service veteran Mark Sullivan to succeed Basham at the agency. Both nominations require Senate confirmation.

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