- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson, nominated by President Bush as the Department of Homeland Security's undersecretary for border and transportation security, yesterday called the appointment "an enormous challenge" and said he was "delighted to be on the team."
"I have a wonderful job and I love it, but I am responding to the call of the president," Mr. Hutchinson told The Washington Times. "The president is putting together a new team and I am honored he thought I could bring something to it."
Mr. Hutchinson, a former three-term Arkansas Republican congressman sworn in as DEA administrator in August 2001, will be charged with ensuring greater security for the nation's borders and transportation infrastructures and bringing together a myriad of agencies assigned to accomplish the task.
It is considered the new department's toughest assignment.
"Obviously the biggest challenge will be to fulfill the premise of the Homeland Security legislation, which is to coordinate the agencies involved and provide for greater security," he said.
The new 170,000-member Department of Homeland Security, headed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, formally will begin operations in March, when several agencies are combined into a massive new department. It is expected to be fully operational by Sept. 30.
Mr. Hutchinson will be responsible for developing a plan to prevent the entry of terrorists and the instruments of terrorism into the United States, and for securing the country's borders, territorial waters, ports and terminals. He also will oversee the inspection, immigration and enforcement functions of the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal agencies.
"My main objective will be to make sure our borders are safe," Mr. Hutchinson said.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, commenting on Mr. Hutchinson's nomination, said the Justice Department was "losing a great leader," but that he was "confident" the DEA chief's experience, leadership and dedication would "benefit the new Homeland Security Department and the nation."
As head of the DEA, Mr. Hutchinson focused the agency's enforcement efforts against top-level, drug-trafficking organizations, while being a national advocate for increased drug-prevention and treatment programs. He pushed for the first-ever indictments of known terrorists for drug trafficking and oversaw the dismantling of the Arellano Felix drug cartel, one of Mexico's most powerful and violent drug-smuggling operations.
Mr. Hutchinson's nomination is expected to receive wide bipartisan support. During hearings for the DEA post, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Mr. Hutchinson "a man of integrity and intelligence." The panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, described the former congressman as "good people" and said he was "grateful" he was "willing to serve" as DEA administrator.
Meanwhile, DEA Deputy Administrator John B. Brown III is expected to be named as acting head of the agency when Mr. Hutchinson leaves, probably in January. Mr. Brown also has emerged as a leading contender for the top job. A 30-year DEA veteran, Mr. Brown is a key figure in the agency's day-to-day operations and has held several top positions within the agency.

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