COAC stresses need for ITDS buy-in by feds
An influential industry advisory group has repeated its call for the White House to issue an executive order requiring all federal agencies that collect international trade data of some kind to begin actively participating in and providing financial support to the International Trade Data System.
Members of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations for Customs and Border Protection are increasingly frustrated that many agencies are dragging their feet rather than helping configure their systems to be compatible with ITDS, now under development as a single government-wide window for accepting data and disseminating it to appropriate agencies. ITDS is being developed in conjunction with Customs’ computer modernization program known as the Automated Commercial Environment.
“It must be made mandatory for all federal agencies to be part of the ACE/ITDS, especially if participating government agencies have (a role in) admissibility decisions at the ports of entry for cargo, conveyances or crews,” said Sandra Scott, director of international relations at trucking giant Yellow Roadway Corp., addressing Department of Homeland Security officials last Friday on behalf of the group. The administration also needs to provide appropriate funding to agencies to cover their ITDS integration efforts.
She made a similar request at COAC’s meeting in April, which was closely followed by a letter from 51 major companies and organizations to President Bush asking him to make the issue an administration priority.
DHS officials said at the Sept. 10 meeting that the issue is before the Office of Management and Budget, but so far no decision has been made to go from voluntary to mandatory participation in ITDS.
So far only nine agencies, including Customs and the Food and Drug Administration, are actively involved in preparations to link their systems to ITDS. COAC members urged DHS Secretary Tom Ridge to push the White House on the issue, or at least take the lead to make sure that the 22 agencies that merged to create his department in 2003 integrate their data functions with ITDS as soon as possible. It is important for these agencies to document all the data elements they collect, or seek to, so that companies involved in import/export can start working on their systems to integrate the extra data fields and transmit the data when ACE is ready.
Scott reminded DHS officials that while ITDS was designed to facilitate trade and streamline the filing of redundant information to multiple agencies, it also improves security by helping disseminate commercial data that can be useful in analyzing the potential terrorist risk of inbound cargo containers and freight transport.
“Everyone is failing to realize that ACE/ITDS is a great mechanism that will be of assistance in border security and to fight terrorism,” she said.