- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2003

The head of the newly created Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has ordered 375 additional agents to be deployed along the U.S.-Canadian border as part of the war against terrorism.

“Homeland security is our top priority,” said Robert C. Bonner, who promised a front-line role for the U.S. Border Patrol within the Department of Homeland Security. The CBP is responsible for detecting terrorists and their weapons at the nation’s borders.

The agents, who will be “strategically and permanently assigned to various locations,” will bring the number of Border Patrol personnel assigned to the world’s longest undefended border to 1,000 by the end of the year. Fewer than 300 agents were deployed along the 4,200-mile stretch as late as 2001.

“The Border Patrol is an essential part of Customs and Border Protection and provides security against intrusions between our nation’s official crossing points,” he said. “This is an important step in increasing security along our northern border and is necessary given the continuing threat of terrorism.”

Funding for the additional positions was provided in the fiscal 2003 budget passed by Congress. The Border Patrol also has deployed additional aircraft and boats to provide air coverage across the entire northern border.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bonner said the United States needed a “strong and effective” Border Patrol between the nation’s 300 ports of entry to guard against terrorists, to apprehend the millions of aliens who seek to enter the United States illegally each year, and to stop drug smugglers from bringing tons of narcotics into the country.

He told The Washington Times that while the agency had done an “extraordinary job, day and night, performing its mission” and while the task “has always been and will continue to be a difficult one,” having the resources of the CBP would allow the agency to be “even more effective and successful in performing its essential mission of protecting our nation and enforcing the laws of the United States at our borders.”

“The Border Patrol is America’s main force between the country’s ports of entry,” he said. “It has found a good home in the Bureau of Customs and Border Enforcement and will be supported in a way INS never did.”

On March 1, the Border Patrol was transferred from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and became a division within CBP.

Under the old system, Border Patrol officials reported to several different command officers, who answered to regional directors, who reported to managers in Washington, who were responsible to separate agency heads.

Mr. Bonner, a former federal judge who also headed the Drug Enforcement Administration, has since reformed a border security network that historically was fragmented and spread among nearly two dozen agencies, transferred decision-making to headquarters and established a common chain of command to increase efficiency.

The revisions included a Border Patrol chain of command that eliminated the agency’s own hierarchy from the decision-making process in favor of INS. Agents now report to one sector chief, who is responsible to the chief of the Border Patrol in Washington, who reports to Mr. Bonner.

Mr. Bonner also pledged to get the Border Patrol the necessary resources and equipment to protect the country and to have the “mobility to respond to terrorist threats as those threats continue to evolve.”

“We need the Border Patrol now more than ever to do all we can to make sure terrorists and terrorist weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, are not permitted to be smuggled into the United States between our ports of entry,” he said.

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