June 21, 2011 10:45 AM, EDT

ATA, Business Groups Back Bersin for Customs Chief

By Suzanne Winchell, Special to Transport Topics

This story appears in the June 20 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

American Trucking Associations and nearly two dozen other business groups in recent weeks have re-affirmed their support of Alan Bersin as commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

ATA was one of 23 agencies to co-sign a letter to President Obama in late May urging assistance in achieving his confirmation.

“The time is here for the Senate to confirm Mr. Bersin,” the letter stated. “He has already set in motion meaningful change and his leadership is needed to make sure this continues.”

Other organizations included the Border Trade Alliance, the Cargo Airline Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Express Delivery and Logistics Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Bersin has served on a recess appointment from President Obama since March 27, 2010. His confirmation hearings in the Senate stalled initially in May 2010, when he faced criticism for failing to provide documentation on several household employees.

ATA and the other parties sent a similar letter urging confirmation in February to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking minority member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

The National Retail Federation was among the signatories of both letters, and spokesman Jonathan Gold emphasized Customs’ role in global trade.

“A lot of our major issues relate to customs,” Gold said. “Mr. Bersin has done a great job . . . working with the trade community and other government agencies that rely on customs get through the process smoothly.”

The International Warehouse Logistics Association issued an additional statement earlier this month in support of Bersin.

“He is an advocate for modernizing the CBP. His words and actions show that he recognizes that security and trade facilitation are not mutually exclusive,” IWLA President Joel Anderson said in the statement.

As commissioner, Bersin oversees the implementation of CBP’s more than $11 billion budget and 57,000 employees.

He also has previously received the support of Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva, both Arizona Democrats. They praised his experience as an advisor to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, and in his former position as the “border czar” at DHS.

Bersin has served previously as chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, secretary of Education for California and as a U.S. attorney under President Clinton.

His recess appointment remains valid until the close of the 2011 legislative session, when it will expire if not confirmed by the Senate Finance Committee.