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American Shipper

Bonner reunites with ex-aides at Sentinel HS Group

Bonner reunites with ex-aides at Sentinel HS Group

Former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner has joined the Sentinel HS Group, a homeland security and government affairs consulting firm with deep roots in the agency.


Bonner

   The company announced today that Bonner began Jan. 1 as senior principal.

   Bonner said in an e-mail to American Shipper that he has retired as a partner at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he worked in Los Angeles since leaving office in late 2005 and from 1993 until being nominated by President Bush to head U.S. Customs in 2001. One of his stated reasons for retiring from CBP was to spend more time with his daughter and grandchildren in California. He will remain in Los Angeles, but plans to frequently travel back and forth to Washington in his new position.

   The job change was motivated by a desire to focus more time on homeland and supply chain security issues such as implementation of the World Customs Organization’s global framework of common international security standards, Bonner said.

   Sentinel said in a statement that Bonner will be active in each of the firm’s practice groups, with a particular emphasis on supply chain and border security, visitor management and advising public and private sector clients on how to implement the WCO’s global standards on supply chain security and customs modernization.

   About 130 governments have committed to adopt the WCO SAFE framework of standards, but many of them do not have the expertise, infrastructure or staff to design sophisticated risk-management and automated screening systems used by modern customs services in North America, Europe and Asia. Sentinel's practice offers to help governments assess their needs in terms of their trade volume and existing systems, and design cargo-processing systems that meet their import-export procedures and budgets.

   “I found myself far more interested in working to perfect and implement the homeland and supply chain security and facilitation policies that we pioneered at CBP, than I was in practicing law,” Bonner said.

   Bonner has kept a low profile since leaving office as he seemingly tried not to overshadow his successors, then-Acting Commissioner Deborah Spero and now Ralph Basham, and because his Gibson Dunn duties primarily dealt with white-collar criminal matters. Last summer, however, he participated in a symposium at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that dealt with container security devices.

   Fairfax, Va.-based Sentinel was founded in August 2005 by Brian Goebel, who served as counsel and senior policy advisor under Bonner from September 2001 until May 2004 and practiced law with him at Gibson Dunn from 1998 to 2001. The small firm, which assists clients with border and supply chain security, immigration, customs and other areas, has attracted several other ex-CBP officials.

   Joshua Kussman, vice president of the firm, also served as a policy advisor to Bonner and eventually became the agency’s director of policy. Keith Thomson joined the Sentinel HS Group one year ago as a principal partner after having served as assistant commissioner for international affairs at CBP.

   Jeff Thamkittikasem joined the firm in March 2007 after serving as chief of staff in CBP’s Office of Anti-Terrorism.

   During his term in the Bush administration, Bonner led the transition of the legacy Customs Service from the Treasury Department to the new Department of Homeland Security. The Bush administration decided to merge Customs with parts of Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Agriculture to form Customs and Border Protection. Bonner was responsible for implementing the One Face at the Border policy that consolidated the inspectional duties of each service in one border officer to streamline passenger and cargo processing at ports of entry.

   Bonner is widely credited with moving quickly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to create several new initiatives for protecting against the use of ocean containers as conveyances for a weapon of mass destruction or other means for attacking the United States. The strategy he laid out of focusing on risk-based methods for intercepting boxes for inspection and extending the borders through cooperation with international partners and the private sector continue to form the foundation for the nation’s multi-layered cargo security policy.

   He is best known for starting the 24-hour rule for advanced electronic manifest data, the Container Security Initiative, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, NEXUS trusted traveler programs and pushing to globalize the security and trade facilitation strategy through the WCO by getting countries to agree to follow similar customs standards.

   An advocate of developing more detection technologies, Bonner secured resources to procure automated cargo inspection machines used in mobile and fixed configurations to scan trucks and ocean containers.

   Bonner is also a former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, federal judge and U.S. attorney. ' Eric Kulisch

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