DHS nears completion of regional reorganization plan
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s year-long attempt to add another management level between customs and immigration field offices and Washington is nearing conclusion as the agency gets set to announce a regional structure, department undersecretary Asa Hutchinson said Friday.
The undertaking has been met by trepidation by the import/export community, which fears that different regional directors will dilute direct communication to and from ports of entry and lead to inconsistent enforcement of national policies.
The current outline of the regional concept envisions seven to 10 regions with its own director, Hutchinson said. The regional chief will act as a liaison with state and local government officials on homeland security issues, coordinate the emergency and law enforcement response if there is a terrorist or other incident affecting homeland security and make sure DHS agencies are cooperating properly on a daily basis. The director will make recommendations to DHS to improve border operations when necessary.
Hutchinson emphasized that port directors will still report up their normal command chains to their respective agency heads and that policy affecting trade would still be determined at the national level “to avoid conflict among operational elements.”
Hutchinson said there still is a small window of time for industry to send in any suggestions as the final pieces of the reorganization are put in place. A final decision has not been made and the initiative still must go to the White House for approval, he said.