- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 7, 2004

The Department of Homeland Security last week announced the successful unification of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s work force by presenting officers, agriculture specialists and Border Patrol agents with the first DHS law enforcement badges.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge called the badge presentations in Newark, New Jersey, San Diego and Detroit a major milestone in the agency’s “One Face at the Border” initiative — the placement of a single border agency at and between the nation’s ports of entry.

“The Customs and Border Protection [CBP] badges you see today are the badges of honor in the war on terrorism,” Mr. Ridge said. “In the weeks to follow, each of our 30,000 CBP officers, CBP agriculture specialists, and CBP Border Patrol agents will be issued a new badge under which they will carry out their mission as one unified force protecting America’s borders.”

While cross-training and other aspects of integration have been under way for some time, Mr. Ridge said all former Customs and Immigration inspectors have now been converted to the CBP officer position. The former agriculture inspectors were converted to CBP agriculture specialists a few months ago, and granted pay parity with CBP officers.

“It is an honor for me to administer a new oath to our front-line officers and agents under the Department of Homeland Security,” said CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner. “This new oath and the badges we pin on today are symbolic of the dedication of U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees to protect our borders against the terrorist threat.

“At CBP, as ‘One Face at the Border,’ we are building on strong traditions, but we are also forging a new tradition, a tradition of total professionalism and excellence.” Mr. Bonner said.

CBP includes more than 41,000 employees to manage, control and protect the nation’s borders at and between the ports of entry.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection has accomplished a lot to secure our borders, but there is much more we are doing,” Mr. Bonner said. “We understand that as America’s front line, the security of a nation rests on our shoulders. We have learned the lessons of September 11 and are working day and night to make America safer and more secure.”

The conversion of immigration and customs inspectors to the CBP officer position was made possible with the recent implementation of the Customs Officer Pay Reform Act (COPRA), which took effect on July 25. It provides a single overtime system for front-line officers at the ports of entry and ensures efficient and equitable work assignments and compensation.

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