CBP moves to regional command for Arizona
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reorganized operations in Arizona into a unified chain of command under which Border Patrol, Customs Field Operations, and Air and Marine branches answer to a single chief instead of their respective internal organizations.
The agency said Feb. 7 that the regional restructuring complements efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate functions of various components and bring greater uniformity to enforcement efforts.
CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin has appointed Chief Border Patrol Agent Jeffrey Self as commander of the Arizona Joint Field Command. He will oversee all operations and coordinate the deployment of CBP resources in Arizona. The change means that the three main CBP components will report to him rather than to different bosses within the same area of operation.
Field Operations has district field offices and the Border Patrol has sector chiefs under the existing system.
The Obama administration has made the Southwest border a top homeland security priority, pumping in more immigration, Border Patrol and Customs officers, adding intelligence analysts and detection technologies, and conducting outbound inspections of rail and vehicles for weapons and cash, in attempt to reduce crime rates and contain violence associated with drug cartel warfare in Mexico.
The restructuring bear similarities to former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's plan to create a regional command structure instead of having divisions report to their regional office and then directly to headquarters in Washington. U.S. Customs used to operate under a regional management approach more than 20 years.
CBP tested the Arizona regional concept for several months before implementing it full time.
The move raises questions about how someone with a Border Patrol background will handle trade compliance, facilitation and cargo security partnerships with industry at a time when CBP officials have emphasized that law enforcement efforts have to be carefully integrated with efforts to keep legitimate trade and travel flowing.
Officers at ports of entry operate very differently from border agents in the field who try to prevent the illegal entry of aliens along the border through surveillance, traffic checks, patrols and other techniques. ' Eric Kulisch