OMBÆS TEMPORARY SPENDING FREEZE DOES NOT AFFECT CUSTOMS
A U.S. Customs Service official told a House committee Tuesday that a spending freeze imposed by the Office of Management and Budget does not affect Customs’ schedule to roll out phases of its computer-generated trade monitoring system, the Automated Commercial Environment.
Customs’ Chief Information Officer S.W. “Woody” Hall testified before the House Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement regarding OMB’s July freeze on information technology spending at homeland security agencies. The subcommittee, which examines all matters relating to federal information technology and procurement policy, called for the hearing in conjunction with its request of the General Accounting Office to conduct a review of that freeze.
OMB Director Mitch Daniels issued the freeze this July on IT spending for projects for more than $500,000 in agencies that will be a part of the proposed Department of Homeland Security. Daniels said the freeze would curb “redundant spending.”
Agencies affected by the freeze include Treasury and Transportation departments, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Based on guidance Customs has received from the Department of the Treasury and OMB, the ‘temporary seize’ directive does not affect Customs’ initial modernization project, ACE,” Hall said. “Consequently, work on ACE has not stopped or even slowed.”
Hall told the committee that, over the next five months, Customs will introduce an Intranet-based common user interface from ACE to selected Customs users, and by February the agency will roll out ACE’s first capabilities to the trade community.
Among the list of witnesses were officials from GAO, OMB, and the Transportation Security Administration. A customs systems analyst said that two agencies that also rely on IT systems, the Coast Guard and INS, were not in attendance. The analyst attributed this to more than a mere oversight by the subcommittee, which is charged with inviting witnesses.
“Sometimes it’s not what you see, it is what you don’t see that matters,” the analyst said.