Daniel Baldwin, executive director of Cargo and Conveyance Security, retired Tuesday from U.S. Customs and Border Protection after a 27-year career with the agency. He made the announcement in an email to friends and colleagues.
"I am most proud of the fact that I helped to elevate the importance of trade and cargo issues in an agency devoted to the homeland security mission," he wrote.
Baldwin hinted in the email that he planned to soon take a private sector job that would continue his involvement in international trade.
“I’m sorry that he has left,” said Jon Kent, the chief lobbyist for the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America and a partner in the law firm Kent & O’Connor. “He took seriously his role as the primary point of contact there for the commercial trade community. You could always take a field operations problem to him and get a rationale answer. It was not always completely the one that you wanted, but it balanced the commercial sector’s interest and CBP’s, looking for solutions that met the needs of both. In other words, it was always fair and responsive.”
Baldwin previously was assistant commissioner for international trade for five years, but in the spring of 2011 then-Commissioner Alan Bersin switched him to the Office of Field Operations to head Cargo and Conveyance Security. Some considered the move a demotion, but Bersin insisted the move was designed to inject the security-focused Field Operations branch with more expertise on trade policy, while adding someone with operational enforcement experience to lead International Trade. Bersin, however, was moving aggressively to change CBP's culture to be more business friendly and efficient, and the transfer seemed to be a signal that he wasn't pleased with the pace with which his reform agenda was being implemented.
Baldwin helped establish the Office of International Trade, which consolidated the trade policy, program development and compliance measurement functions of CBP into one office. It directs the enforcement of intellectual property rights, import safety, trade agreements and U.S. laws against predatory trade practices. He also was closely involved with developing business requirements for the Automated Commercial Environment.
Through development of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, Air Cargo Advanced Screening, ACE, simplified entry and other programs, "it has always been evident that both CBP and the trade community are natural partners. The closer we work together, the more aligned our interests have become," Baldwin said in the email.
Baldwin is considered extremely knowledgeable about Customs trade rules and procedures, but some in industry grumbled that he often made decisions without seeking input from stakeholders even though in public meetings, he consistently espoused the need for collaboration.
Baldwin previously served as assistant commissioner in the former Office of Strategic Trade and before that as director of the trade management division in OST. He did not work at a port of entry during his career, which he began as a trade specialist focusing on analyzing customs entries and other documentation for steel imports.
Baldwin's departure is the latest in a string of top managers who have taken the retirement as the agency waits for a politically appointed commissioner to be confirmed by Congress. The loss of top staff adds to the challenge of keeping the momentum on several initiatives to modernize the agency and remove red tape from cargo processing.
In September, Al Gina retired as assistant commissioner of international trade and David Murphy retired as acting assistant commissioner of field operations.
Acting Commissioner David Aguilar retired in April after 15 months at the helm, during which time he helped maintain momentum for the agency’s trade transformation initiative.
Jeremy Baskin retired June 1 after a long career at legacy Customs and CBP. He was the senior adviser to the executive director of Regulations and Rulings. He was a trusted liaison to the trade community on compliance issues and played significant roles in CBP’s Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures program, the development of ACE, and the bond and entry programs.
A year ago, Cindy Allen, the head of the ACE Business Office, returned to the private sector after helping put the troubled program back on its feet.