Magazine article National Defense

Asa Hutchinson Watchful of the Diplomacy of Security

Magazine article National Defense

Asa Hutchinson Watchful of the Diplomacy of Security

Article excerpt

The border between Mexico and the United States is more than a massive stretch of arid land. It's also the 2,000-mile long nexus of homeland security and international diplomacy.

Straddling the line of diplomat and defender is Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary for border and transportation security at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). His directorate, composed of more than 110,000 employees, is responsible for coordinating the enforcement activities of U.S. borders, transportation and immigration systems.

"What has surprised me is the extraordinary breadth of the international relations that we've had to undertake, both with Mexico and Canada, but also with the European Commission, with a whole host of other countries," Hutchinson said in an interview with National Defense.

Fortunately, Hutchinson-whom President George W. Bush calls "Ace'-has experience working with the Mexican government on shared security issues. In 2001, Hutchinson, a congressman from Arkansas, was appointed to head the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Hutchinson served the first-ever indictments of known terrorists for drug trafficking and supervised the arrest of the head of the Arellano Felix organization, a prominent and violent Mexican drug trafficking group. He stepped down as the head of the DEA to join Homeland Security in January 2003.

Hutchinson said that Mexico has been cooperative with U.S. interests. "We go to orange alert; they support our concerns by increasing their inspections, increasing their manpower at their ports of entry," he said. "We all come from different, a little bit different cultural backgrounds, little bit different national interests, and we sort through those. But as for cooperation, we're very pleased."

Counter-drug operations have paved the way for increased cooperation, a shift that Hutchinson credits to the administration of Mexican president Vicente Fox. "He has greatly enhanced the law enforcement cooperation and the rule of law in Mexico. I think he'll go down in history as greatly strengthening those areas," Hutchinson said. "From the perspective of homeland security, I see that pattern continuing and being implemented in the arena of security."

He cited the Arizona Border Control initiative, a program that features Mexican and American law enforcement officers working side by side, sharing intelligence and investigatory information on the smuggling organizations. …

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