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New pressure to get a Customs commissioner

By Ed O'Keefe

Three former directors of the nation's border patrol agency have called on senators to quickly confirm a new leader for Customs and Border Protection, arguing lawmakers have delayed action on a critical national security pick for too long.

President Obama nominated Alan D. Bersin to serve as CBP commissioner in September. He currently serves as Homeland Security assistant secretary of international affairs and served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California during the Clinton years.

The nomination will be considered by the Senate Finance Committee, which has yet to schedule a hearing. Meanwhile, Raymond Kelly, Robert Bonner and W. Ralph Basham -- who led the agency from 1998 to 2009 -- are growing impatient.

"All of us believe the appointment deserves more focused attention and swift action in the manner of other critical national security nominations," the three former commissioners wrote in a letter last month to Senate leaders.

The Obama administration deserves some blame for the delay since it waited until September to pick Bersin, they said. It has been almost a year since the last appointed commissioner retired -- and the acting commissioner also recently left.

Though the agency is now in the hands of "very capable" senior career executives, "they are constrained without presidentially appointed and confirmed leadership at the head of the agency," the men wrote.

Several other nominees have waited much longer for a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

On Tuesday, the panel met to consider the nomination of Francisco "Frank" J. Sánchez, who was picked in April to serve as the undersecretary of commerce for international trade. It also heard from Sherry Glied, who was tapped in May to serve as HHS assistant secretary for planning and evaluation and Jeffrey Goldstein, selected last July to serve as undersecretary of the Treasury for domestic finance.

Committee aides said they continue to review Bersin's background and plan to schedule a hearing soon. Whoever eventually leads CBP will have oversight of roughly 50,000 employees along U.S. borders and at the nation's international airports and seaports.

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Track all Obama administration nominees with The Post's Head Count

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 3, 2010; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Revolving Door  
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