CBP Change of Leadership Ceremony
(Remarks as Prepared)
Good morning. I’m pleased to join Commissioner Bersin, Deputy Commissioner Aguilar, Assistant Commissioner Winkowski, and the men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
You have one of the most challenging – and important – missions of any agency within DHS, and in fact, across the federal government.
The work you do is not only critical to the security of our land, sea and air borders, and the health and safety of the American people, but is also crucial to the health of our economy:
This year alone, you screened more than 340 million travelers and nearly 25 million containers, accounting for $2.3 trillion in trade.
You secured our nearly 6,000 miles of land borders and provided nearly 1,500 hours of unmanned aerial surveillance along our borders.
At the same time, you processed more than 15 million travelers at 15 international pre-clearance locations overseas, helping to identify threats earlier while expediting legal travel.
You undertook these and other challenging, often dangerous, missions every day, and your accomplishments over the past year speak to the immense commitment, talent, and dedication of every CBP employee, and the creed by which you do your jobs: vigilance, service, integrity.
But as much as your work is a team effort, your achievements also speak to the tremendous dedication, talent, and leadership of your Commissioner. Since day one, Commissioner Bersin has set clear priorities for CBP, implemented innovative policies and strategies to meet them, and achieved remarkable results.
Under his tenure, Commissioner Bersin has overseen the most significant and successful expansion of border security in United States history, and I say that having served as a border state governor for over six years.
Today, our borders are more secure than ever before. Border Patrol apprehensions are down 50 percent over the past three years and are less than 20 percent of what they were at their peak.
At the same time, over the past three years, you and your DHS colleagues have seized more illegal currency, drugs, and weapons along the Southwest border, and those seizures continue to increase.
Under Commissioner Bersin, we have made critical investments in our ports of entry to strengthen security, trade, and travel.
Commissioner Bersin helped forge even stronger international partnerships across the globe, fostering an unprecedented level of cooperation with Mexico and developing new and important initiatives with Canada while also leading the expansion of CBP trusted traveler programs to expedite screening for low-risk travelers.
For these and many other reasons, CBP is now a stronger, more capable agency. Commissioner Bersin – today, we pay tribute to your service, your commitment, and the lasting difference you have made, and we thank you as you prepare to leave CBP.
Of course, the silver lining in Commissioner Bersin’s departure is that he is leaving CBP in the extremely capable hands of another remarkable public servant: Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar.
Deputy Commissioner Aguilar is certainly no stranger here. Indeed, he has spent the bulk of his remarkable professional life serving the United States, beginning his CBP career as a Border Patrol agent in 1978.
With the Border Patrol, Deputy Commissioner Aguilar served as Patrol Agent in Charge of three Border Patrol stations in Texas, two of which received the Commissioner’s award for group achievement while under his command.
He also served as Chief Patrol Agent of the Tucson Sector, leading implementation of the department’s Arizona Border Control Initiative
Deputy Commissioner Aguilar became Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol in 2004, where he presided over the largest expansion of the Border Patrol in its history, forged strong partnerships with the Department of Defense and the National Guard to secure the border, and helped implement the department’s Southwest Border Initiative, among many other efforts. He became Deputy Commissioner in April, 2010.
For his work and his career of service, Deputy Commissioner Aguilar received the Presidential Rank Award in 2008.
He is a familiar face around these halls, a well-respected member of the law enforcement community, and a proven leader. Congratulations on your new appointment. We all look forward to continuing to work with you.
We are also pleased to be welcoming Assistant Commissioner Winkowski to his new position as Acting Deputy Commissioner.
He, too, has devoted his life to public service, joining the U.S Customs service in 1975 and serving in many critical positions throughout his career, including Port Director of the Los Angeles International Airport, Area Port Director of Miami and Director of Field Operations there, and since 2007, as Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Field Operations.
He brings immense customs experience to this position, having directed the activities of more than 28,000 CBP employees as well as overseeing operations at 20 major field offices, 330 ports of entry, 58 CSI ports, and 15 preclearance stations.
We are grateful for your continued service in this new role. We are also very pleased to have two long-time CBP veterans now serving at the helm of this agency and bringing their broad range of experience to your daily mission.
I’m also happy to say that even though Commissioner Bersin is leaving CBP, he won’t be going far.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that President Obama has appointed Commissioner Bersin to serve a new role within DHS – that of Assistant Secretary of International Affairs.
DHS could not succeed in its mission without strong international partnerships and engagement. We have personnel working in more than 75 countries, including many of your CBP colleagues.
Our international responsibilities extend to the full range of threats we face, including countering:
Terrorism and organized violent crime; Narcotics smuggling and human trafficking;
Proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons; and
Emerging threats from cyberspace
In his new position, Assistant Secretary Bersin will oversee the department’s international engagement, leading the strategic development and execution of DHS international plans and policies and forging new partnerships with foreign governments and international organizations.
As the Department’s chief diplomatic officer, these are responsibilities that I know Assistant Secretary Bersin will assume with the same level of dedication that defined his tenure at CBP as well as his long career in public service, which included roles as California’s Secretary of Education, Superintendent of Public Education in San Diego, and as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.
We are grateful for your continued service to our country and to DHS in this new capacity.
I want to personally thank you for taking on this important job. And I want to thank all of you for your service.
I wish all of you a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season, especially our men and women in the field who will be working over New Year’s to keep all of us safe. Thank you.