Agents happy about division transfer

Oct. 3, 2004 at 4:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Consolidating two government agency divisions will bolster America's fight against terrorism, illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's air and marine operations division will be transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on the recommendation of Homeland Security officials who conducted a review, the Washington Times reported.

The move puts aircraft and boats that have been split between two agencies into one.

"There will be no degradation of the [air and marine] mission, only an improvement in operating efficiencies as the two air and marine elements of ICE and CBP are brought together in one agency," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

The 1,000-employee air and marine division of ICE has a fleet of 134 aircraft and 72 vessels, and maintains 10 branches, two surveillance-support centers, 11 air units and 16 marine units in the southern tier of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Two new branches are to be opened this year in Bellingham, Wash., and Plattsburgh, N.Y.

CBP, which is responsible for managing, controlling and protecting the nation's borders at and between the ports of entry, maintains 115 helicopters and airplanes, and 102 patrol boats, used primarily by the Border Patrol.

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