Importers, customs brokers, and other trade stakeholders are praising President Trump's nomination earlier this month of Kevin K. McAleenan as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). McAleenan, who became acting commissioner when Trump took office in January, is the first in recent memory to come from within CBP's career ranks rather than from an outside law-enforcement agency. Industry observers expect an easy confirmation by the Senate.
International traders know McAleenan well. He previously served as deputy commissioner, CBP's most senior career position, comparable to a chief operating officer in private industry. He has also held such varied positions as acting assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of Field Operations and port director of Los Angeles International Airport. His lengthy career at CBP has included responsibilities in trade facilitation, border security, and antiterrorism operations.
With 60,000 employees and a budget of more than $13 billion, CBP is the largest law-enforcement agency and the second-largest revenue-collecting source in the federal government. According to the international trade advisory firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, McAleenan told a meeting of the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC) earlier this year that CBP will continue to focus on implementation of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act while also adhering to Trump's directive to eliminate, simplify, or streamline regulations that hamper importers and exporters.
Several speakers at the recent Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) Northeast Trade and Transportation Conference in Newport, R.I., said they believe McAleenan's appointment would be beneficial. Valarie Neuhart, acting director of CBP's Office of Trade Relations, said, "his background in trade facilitation and enforcement will be good for us." Amy Magnus, director, customs compliance, for customs broker A.N. Deringer Inc. and a "Trade Ambassador" for CBP's Trade Support Network advisory forum, said she was "quite pleased" with the nomination and expects McAleenan will be "reasonable" and "easy to work with." Still, she added, "We are in a heightened enforcement era. ... Make no mistake, we will continue to see heavy and aggressive enforcement from CBP."
McAleenan received a 2015 Presidential Rank Award, the nation's highest civil service award, and in 2005 received the Service to America Medal for his leadership in developing and implementing an antiterrorism strategy for border security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School and a Bachelor of Arts from Amherst College.