- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner Jay Ahern, who heads the Office of Field Operations, yesterday was named deputy commissioner, the agency’s No. 2 official.

“Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Jay has had a pivotal role in shaping the identity of our new agency,” said CBP Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, who announced the appointment. “He was at the forefront of bringing together employees from three very different agencies to create a unified team at all of our air, land and sea ports of entry.”

Mr. Ahern, a veteran U.S. Customs Service agent with 31 years in federal law enforcement, replaces Assistant Commissioner Debra Spero, who announced her retirement last week.

Mr. Ahern took over the Office of Field Operations when CBP was created in March 2003, managing an operating budget of $2.5 billion and directing the activities of more than 24,000 employees.

As deputy commissioner, he will be responsible for providing executive-level direction to CBP’s day-to-day operations, including oversight of agency initiatives that facilitate the international movement of legitimate, low-risk goods and travelers while promoting effective border security.

Mr. Ahern previously was assigned as the director of field operations in Southern California, where he was in charge of all Customs activity at Southern California ports of entry. Before that, he was the principal field manager of Customs port operations in Los Angeles and Miami.

He completed two earlier tours of duty at Customs headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he was the director of the Anti-Smuggling Division and senior adviser to the acting commissioner of Customs. In that role, he developed narcotics interdiction programs and operational initiatives throughout Latin America.

“Jay is a firm believer in the wisdom of the creation of CBP as America’s unified border security agency, and has an excellent working relationship with fellow assistant commissioners,” Mr. Basham said. “I have the utmost confidence in Jay’s leadership abilities and I know he looks forward to working with all employees at U.S. Customs and Border Protection to further our common interest in securing America from those who seek to do us harm.”

As head the Office of Field Operations, Mr. Ahern said knowing the destruction caused by a terrorist attack is the “sense of urgency that drives all of us.”

“Every day I have a sick feeling in my stomach worrying whether I have addressed every problem, done everything I could to prevent another attack. And I know I’m not alone,” he told The Washington Times. “The terrorists continue to plot against us; the threat is not over.

“While I am confident we have a much higher level of security today than we did on September 11, a lot more needs to be done,” Mr. Ahern said. “But we are getting there.”

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