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25/01/2005 | Hutchinson steps down as DHS border and transportation chief

Martin Edwin Andersen

One publication suggested recently that if Ridge's successor couldn't keep troubleshooter Hutchison on the job, he should "get his clone"

 

WASHINGTON--Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary for border and transportation security at the Homeland Security Department, has resigned effective March 1, it was announced Monday.

The White House did not immediately announce a replacement for Hutchinson, who served for 16 months as the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration before being confirmed as one of the most senior DHS officials in January 2003.

Hutchinson is reported to be considering a number of options, including running for Arkansas governor in 2006; a likely Democratic opponent is rumored to be ret. Gen. Wesley Clark, the former 2004 presidential candidate.

As head of the border and transportation security directorate, Hutchinson managed DHS’ largest operational component, making up $14 billion of its nearly $36 billion budget, and employing nearly 110,000.

Supporters say that Hutchinson stood out as one of those individuals in the Bush Administration who, in addition to having a thorough knowledge of the legislative process, successfully spanned party lines to quietly build bridges on broad issues of policy.

At the same time, he has won plaudits from his co-workers for his management style, and is credited with bringing a sense of teamwork in a beleaguered department that is now faced with an exodus of the Administration’s first-round draft choices, while also being attentive to voices outside the Capitol Beltway.

In a open memo to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s still unnamed successor in early January, the Congressional Quarterly/Homeland Security daily suggested, in order to address “a whole raft of issues all along the (U.S.) perimeter … you’ll improve your changes of fixing them quickly by keeping Asa Hutchinson in his job.”

And, if Hutchinson wasn’t available, CQ/HLS suggested, the new Ridge should try to “get his clone.”

(On Jan. 11, President Bush announced that he would nominate Michael Chertoff, a federal judge and former head of the Justice Department's criminal division, to be the new DHS Secretary.)

Such seemingly impossible biological legerdemain aside, the publication added that Hutchinson, a former member of Congress: (1997-2000), “has been able to steer some of the department’s most important programs around the land mines of Capitol Hill.”

In recent months, Hutchinson has served as DHS point man on two important fronts.

The first was his recommendation that Congress allow DHS to vet the names of temporary foreign workers in the United States against federal records, in order to help address the long-standing problem of hiring illegal employees.

And last month, Hutchinson suggested that private companies with port facilities perhaps ought to be paying more of the costs for the security of those facilities; currently a number of these receive federal grants to cover costs.

Port experts note that in the latest round of grants that provided $49 million for port security, less than 60 percent went to public port authorities, the entities that actually operate the nation’s commercial ports.

“Now some people might question, should we be giving grants to ExxonMobil and major chemical plants for their building of fences and surveillance cameras to enhance the security of their facilities, or should that be a private sector responsibility?” Hutchinson said.

“We provide leadership, we provide incentives, we provide pilot projects,” he added, but the expense for carrying out security upgrades “has to be a burden that is shared by the private sector as well.”

Martin Edwin Andersen can be reached via Mick_Andersen@Portsecuritynews.com 

Copyright © 2005 Port Security News

Port Security News (Estados Unidos)

 


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