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American Shipper

CBP to fill management vacancies, commissioner says

Gil Kerlikowske has suggested that appointments could be announced in the coming weeks.

   More appointments to fill top management vacancies at U.S. Customs and Border Protection could be announced in the coming weeks, Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske recently suggested.
   CBP’s chief two weeks ago promoted Brenda Smith to assistant commissioner of international affairs and named Richard DiNucci executive director of cargo and conveyance security in the Office of Field Operations. The positions had been open between nine and 12 months, with duties carried out by other staff members serving in acting, or temporary, capacities.
   In a brief meeting with reporters in his office to announce the personnel changes, Kerlikowske said Customs is actively working to find a replacement for Smith as head of the Automated Commercial Environment Business Office and to fill numerous other positions with permanent leaders.

Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske

   “The depth of talent that exists in CBP is pretty amazing. We have to give those folks an opportunity to shine. There’s a deep bench here,” said Kerlikowske, who took over in March. 
   Positions from deputy commissioner on down to key program managers are currently being filled by career personnel with the word “acting” in front of their title. Some worry that people without permanent job status can be reluctant to take on new initiatives or push through change. Departures for retirement or other reasons have also raised the specter of a “brain drain” within the leadership cadre, although officials insist there is an available pipeline of talent from the agency’s ranks.
   Kerlikowske and Smith said they don’t expect any slowdown in ACE development associated with Smith’s transfer to another part of the agency. Smith and her predecessor, Cindy Allen, are credited with helping to stabilize the troubled information technology program and putting it on a clear path to full implementation in two years. A key part of the agency’s recent success has been in staffing the ACE program with talented programmers and contract managers who can carry on the mission, officials and knowledgeable outsiders say.
   Kerlikowske said senators made clear during his confirmation process that ACE was their most important priority for the agency because of its overarching role in helping to improve the effectiveness of processing imports and exports.
   “I’m committed not to take my eye off the ball,” he said.

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