Mr. Bonner was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as Commissioner of U.S. Customs Service in September 2001. Then from 2003 through December 2005, Mr. Bonner served as the first Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for managing, controlling, and securing the United States' borders, while facilitating global trade and travel.
As the Commissioner of CBP, Mr. Bonner led the largest merger of personnel and resources associated with the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003. CBP was created by merging personnel from U.S. Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Department of Agriculture. This included the merger of approximately 22,000 Customs personnel, 18,000 Immigration personnel, and 2,000 Agriculture personnel.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Mr. Bonner led key efforts to modernize supply chain security efforts so as to properly address post-9/11 threats. Mr. Bonner created the unprecedented Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) – both continue to revolutionize the security and more efficient movement of trade around the world.
At the same time Mr. Bonner focused on securing international supply chains from the terrorist threat, he also pursued and implemented a national border control strategy to secure America's borders. This strategy consists of a centralized command structure, rapid response capability, and a defense-in-depth, while relying upon highly-trained personnel, strengthened infrastructure, and improved technology.
In addition, Mr. Bonner expanded the development of automated risk-assessment systems (and related policies) for both people and cargo. Under Mr. Bonner’s leadership, these advancements in risk-assessment, the merged CBP authorities and responsibilities, and other “smart border” programs such as C-TPAT, CSI, NEXUS and NEXUS Air (trusted international traveler programs), the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program, and the Immigration Advisory Program, continued to strike a balance between enhanced security initiatives and facilitation in both the people and cargo environments.
Mr. Bonner’s other government service included serving as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from 1990 to 1993, as U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California from 1989 to 1990, and as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California from 1984 through 1989. Mr. Bonner is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Affairs.
Mr. Bonner was a partner in Gibson, Dunn's & Crutcher from 1993 - 2001, and 2005 – 2007. where his practice focused on business advice and government enforcement actions, complex civil cases, internal corporate investigations, corporate compliance programs and public policy matters. Mr. Bonner is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Mr. Bonner retired as a partner of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP at the end of 2007.
Robert C. Bonner joined the Sentinel HS Group (Sentinel) as a Principal on January 1, 2008.