Trade told donÆt worry about Homeland SecurityÆs regional structure
U.S. Homeland Security officials tried hard last week to calm an international trade community nervous that plans underway to organize the department by regions will marginalize the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and lead to inconsistent enforcement of customs, security and trade laws.
On several occasions during Customs' two-day Trade Symposium in Washington, Homeland officials emphasized that a regional management structure would not change how policy is formed at the top of the department.
The reorganization is motivated by a desire to have local liaison for better day-to-day communication with state and local officials, to coordinate the efforts of multiple agencies combined this year in a new department, and as a mechanism to better manage the response to a terrorist incident or natural disaster, said Asa Hutchinson, under secretary for border and transportation security, in a speech.
'We will do this without jeopardizing national policy with regard to the trade community,' he assured several hundred industry representatives.
Secretary Tom Ridge has made it clear that policy is set at the headquarters level, 'and that it would be carried out uniformly and be consistently applied,' said Alfonso Martinez-Fonts, special assistant to the secretary for private sector issues, during a separate event Thursday.
The department will seek public comment on the proposal when it is fully developed, said Stewart Verdrey, the top policy assistant in Hutchinson's office.