SYSTEMS DEVELOPERS GET PEEK AT CUSTOMS’ ACE CONTRACT PROCESS
Systems developers from around the country gathered in Crystal City,
Va., Friday to gain insights into what it will take to build Customs’
future computer system.
The agency wants to replace its 16-year-old Automated Commercial System,
which Customs says is no longer flexible enough to handle future industry data. Earlier
this year, Customs hired Mitre Corp. to assist in developing a blueprint for its future
system, the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).
"We need to have a more adaptable system," said S.W.
"Woody" Hall Jr., assistant commissioner and chief information officer at
Customs. "The private sector can help Customs look for innovative ways to build a
Customs plans to start the bidding process in January. A contract is
expected to be awarded by June 2000.
"We want to get out of the business of building our own systems,"
Charles Armstrong, director of the Customs’ Modernization Office. "We will then be
able to evolve our operations more rapidly and stay ahead of technology changes."
Customs says that it will cost $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion to build ACE
during the next four years. But that system is only part of what Customs
expects the contractor to do. The contractor is also expected to modernize other agency
systems, such as finance, passenger, outbound, enforcement, and human resources. The
contract could last as long as 15 years, the agency said.
"We decided to start with our trade compliance system (ACE), because it
effects everything we do," said Charles Winwood, assistant commissioner for Customs’
Office of Field Operations.
It’s expected that the contractor will manage a team of subcontractors
to build ACE. Systems developers are already scrambling to build their
teams. "We’re already beginning to position ourselves as a prime contractor for this
bid," said Kevin J. Durkin, strategic account executive with EDS.
Customs says it will be "a full and open competition" among the
bidders. Michael Rebain, Customs’ contracting officer, will manage the bid process and