Sunday, October 2, 2005

President Bush’s nominee to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has drawn the ire of several ICE supervisors and agents who say she is “unqualified” because she has never held a law-enforcement management position.

The nomination of Julie L. Myers “just doesn’t pass the smell test and is another indication that this administration created the Department of Homeland Security as window dressing and does not care whether ICE is successful,” said Matthew Issman, national legislative vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA).

“What we need is a strong, law-enforcement leader, not another inexperienced, well-connected lawyer with friends in the White House.”

During the first session of Mrs. Myers’ confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs earlier this month, Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, told Mrs. Myers that he was “really concerned” about her management experience.

“I think that we ought to have a meeting with [Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff] … to ask him … why he thinks you’re qualified for the job,” Mr. Voinovich said. “Because based on your resume, I don’t think you are.”

Mr. Voinovich later met with Mrs. Myers and is expected to support the nomination.

But several ICE supervisors and agents complained last week that the agency has struggled in its attempt to establish a specific mission strategy, despite the expenditure of billions of dollars in tax money and said a strong leader is vital for improvement.

They also criticized what they called poor administrative systems, ongoing budgetary concerns, a hiring freeze, morale problems and a lack of cohesion and identity.

Mr. Issman has been at the forefront of a movement within ICE to point out to members of Congress what supervisors and field agents say are major “systemic issues and concerns.”

“With a lightweight like Myers, we will just continue to lose more ground and will be relegated to becoming an also-ran,” Mr. Issman said.

Mrs. Myers, 36, a White House special assistant for presidential personnel, has Mr. Chertoff’s endorsement, serving as his chief of staff when he headed the Justice Department’s criminal division. She also was an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, where she oversaw the department’s efforts to prevent and sanction violations of U.S. export-control laws.

She also worked as a deputy assistant secretary for money laundering and financial crimes at the Treasury Department, served as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York and as an associate independent counsel for Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth L. Starr.

Her uncle is Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Last week, she married Mr. Chertoff’s chief of staff, John F. Wood.

Her confirmation by the committee remains pending.

ICE was created March 1, 2003, with the merger of U.S. Customs, Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Federal Protective Service. With a work force of nearly 20,000 and an annual budget of $4 billion, it is the second-largest law enforcement agency in the federal government.

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