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Kerlikowske, who headed Seattle Police Department for more than eight years, left Seattle in 2009 to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a Cabinet-level position otherwise known as the drug czar.
The office, established in 1988, directs drug-control policy in the U.S.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that it's unclear when Kerlikowske will start his new job heading the component of Homeland Security that includes the Border Patrol station in Port Angeles and Customs activities in Port Angeles and Port Townsend.
Kerlikowske won credit for stabilizing the Seattle Police Department after the departure of Chief Norm Stamper in the wake of the 1999 World Trade Organization riots and after the department's initial failure to unearth a detective's alleged theft of money at a crime scene, The Seattle Times reported.
In Customs and Border Protection, he will take over organization under fire on several fronts, including secrecy surrounding incidents in which agents shot people suspected of throwing rocks at them from the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
During his Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 15, Kerlikowske promised that if confirmed he would make the agency more transparent.
“I have not been in a law enforcement agency in which the specifics of the use of force were not made available . . . to the general public, and I would work very hard to see that that is done” with the Border Patrol, Kerlikowske told the Senate Finance Committee.
The Senate on Thursday approved Kerlikowske by a voice vote.
His approval marks the first time the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection post has been filled by the Senate since 2011. The department had been run since by officials serving in an acting capacity.