The swearing-in of Customs and Border Protection’s first confirmed commissioner since 2019 has ushered in additional leadership changes as the agency confronts challenges including unprecedented migration flows, integration of technology, and continued effects of COVID-19 on the workforce.
Commissioner Chris Magnus, the former police chief in Tucson, Ariz., became CBP’s fifth confirmed leader at a Tuesday ceremony led by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and attended by his husband Terrance Cheung, Acting Commissioner Troy Miller, Executive Assistant Commissioner Benjamine “Carry” Huffman, CBP Chief of Staff Lise Clavel, and members of the DHS and CBP workforce.
Magnus was confirmed 50-47 by the Senate last week, eight months after his nomination to lead the nation’s largest federal law enforcement agency. Mayorkas said he was “pleased” that Magnus is taking the reins “of an extraordinary organization that fulfills the vital mission of protecting our borders and advancing lawful trade and travel.”
Since the new commissioner took the helm, Miller and Huffman have also assumed new roles at the agency.
Miller, who previously served as director of field operations for CBP’s New York Field Office, had been serving as acting commissioner since Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan left at the end of the Trump administration. Miller also previously served as executive director of the National Targeting Center and as acting assistant commissioner of the Office of Intelligence and Investigative Liaison.
With the confirmation of Magnus, Miller has been named CBP’s new deputy commissioner.
Mayorkas said Miller led CBP in an acting capacity “with tremendous skill and integrity,” and said that Magnus and Miller, “along with the entire CBP leadership team and its great workforce, will propel the agency forward with dignity, integrity, transparency, and accountability.”
Huffman, who previously served as chief of the Strategic Planning and Analysis Directorate at Border Patrol Headquarters and deputy chief of the El Paso Sector and had been serving as acting deputy commissioner since the beginning of July, had served as executive assistant commissioner of Enterprise Services since October 2019. He will now become CBP’s new acting chief operating officer, through which he’ll have oversight of Enterprise Services and Operations Support.
Former CBP Chief Operating Officer Blas Nuñez-Neto became DHS’s acting assistant secretary for border and immigration policy in October. With Huffman moving into his new role, Enterprise Services will now be led by Acting Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ryan Scudder.
Enterprise Services includes the Office of Finance led by Assistant Commissioner Jeffrey Caine, the Office of Human Resources Management led by Assistant Commissioner Andrea Bright, the Office of Training and Development led by Assistant Commissioner Chris Hall, the Office of Information and Technology led by Assistant Commissioner Sonny Bhagowalia, and the Office of Acquisition led by Assistant Commissioner Mark Borkowski. Operations Support, led by Acting Executive Assistant Commissioner Manuel Padilla, Jr., includes the Office of Intelligence led by Assistant Commissioner James Collins and the Office of International Affairs led by Assistant Commissioner Debbie Seguin.
With more than 60,000 employees and a budget of more than $15 billion, the new CBP leadership team faces challenges including COVID-19, which has resulted in 57 deaths at the agency, and a climbing suicide rate among the workforce.
Magnus told the Senate Finance Committee in his October confirmation hearing that he aims to “help depoliticize this process” of changing policies and “build in resiliency as a key for helping our men and women, our hard-working men and women of the Border Patrol, be as effective as possible in their jobs.”
He also stressed the importance of “continuing to develop and modernize the resources that CBP has” such as cloud modernization.
CBP had not had a Senate-confirmed commissioner since 2019, when CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan assumed the duties of acting Homeland Security secretary and then resigned that fall. John Sanders only served in the acting commissioner role for fewer than three months before Morgan was moved into the acting commissioner post and served in that capacity until Miller took over.