Alan Bersin, the new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has taken on leadership of the agency at a time when national security pressures have generated unprecedented government scrutiny of international trade. Despite the critical nature of the job, as of this writing, he has not yet been formally confirmed by the Senate.
Bersin, a recess appointment by President Obama, took office on March 30 with the same power and authority as if he had been confirmed. By law, he can stay in the post until January 2011—the end of next year's session of Congress—unless the Senate confirms him before then. It seems likely he will be confirmed. However, it is not a done deal. During confirmation hearings in mid-May, Bersin was grilled by Montana Democrat Max Baucus about inadequate tax documentation for his family's household help.
Bersin is not the first nominee to come under scrutiny over taxes. Still, the holdup is surprising considering the Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar, who holds a law degree from Yale, has such strong credentials. Bersin most recently was the Department of Homeland Security's "Border Czar," with responsibility for border security, including immigration policy and enforcement. He also had been appointed by President Clinton as U.S. Attorney responsible for coordinating federal law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bersin will be taking a break from the hot and testy Washington scene to meet with the international trade community in New England. On Thursday, June 17, he will make a major address to the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) in Quincy, Mass. For more information about attending the event, go to www.conect.org or call (508) 481-0424.