- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner and White House Homeland Security Adviser Frances Fragos Townsend appear to be at the top of a shortlist of candidates to head the Department of Homeland Security, as the White House seeks to rebound after the unexpected withdrawal of former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Another candidate is Asa Hutchinson, the department’s undersecretary for border and transportation security, administration and law-enforcement sources said. Mr. Hutchinson reportedly has lobbied for the post.

Some Republicans, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins of Maine, also have urged President Bush to consider Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and ranking member on the Governmental Affairs Committee. The three-term senator and the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee was one of the Senate’s leading champions for legislation creating the Homeland Security Department.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies and the Heritage Foundation released a report this week saying the Homeland Security Department needs to be revamped — less than two years after its March 2003 creation —to be effective in guarding the nation against a terrorist attack.

The report, which evaluates the department’s capacity to guard against acts of terrorism, offers 40 recommendations that “make the case for a significant reorganization.” Among its recommendations is that a new secretary establish a “flatter organizational structure” by consolidating and strengthening agencies with overlapping missions, including a merger of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), two law-enforcement agencies with overlapping duties.

The report said the directorate of border and transportation security, which is headed by Mr. Hutchinson and oversees CBP and ICE, has neither the staff nor the infrastructure to integrate the operations of the two agencies on a consistent basis. It also said the directorate lacked sufficient influence with the secretary to resolve policy conflicts.

“Merging CBP and ICE will bring together under one roof all of the tools of effective border and immigration enforcement — inspectors, Border Patrol agents, special agents, detention and removal officers, and intelligence analysts — and “realize the objective of creating a single border and immigration enforcement agency,” the report said.

The report also suggested the elimination of the national color-coded alert system, which has been the subject of ridicule, saying the system needs to be replaced with regional and specific warnings.

“Additionally, since its creation, whether one looks at the department’s capacity to organize and mobilize a response to a catastrophic terrorist attack or at the international dimension of DHS programs, the department has been slow to overcome the obstacles to becoming an effective 21st-century national-security instrument,” it said.

Mr. Bonner, who headed the U.S. Customs Service prior to his 2003 appointment by Mr. Bush to lead CBP, is well-liked on Capitol Hill and would be expected to win confirmation easily. He also has served as a U.S. District Court judge in California, a U.S. attorney and federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, and head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from 1990 to 1993.

Ms. Townsend was named White House homeland security adviser by Mr. Bush in May. Prior to that, she served as deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. She went to the White House from the U.S. Coast Guard, where she was assistant commandant for intelligence. She also spent 13 years at the Justice Department, where her last assignment was as counsel to the attorney general for intelligence policy.

Mr. Kerik pulled out of the nomination process after saying his baby sitter might have been an illegal alien, although news reports in the past few days also have outlined a series of personal and professional improprieties, including questionable stock-option windfalls, ties to people linked with organized crime and accusations of extramarital affairs.

He since has apologized “to anybody who’s been brought into this unnecessarily,” including former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a business associate who personally recommended Mr. Kerik to Mr. Bush for the homeland security post.

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