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American Shipper

TREASURY FINDS $3 MILLION FOR CUSTOMS? NCAP SYSTEM

TREASURY FINDS $3 MILLION FOR CUSTOMSÆ NCAP SYSTEM

   In letters to House and Senate appropriations committees, the U.S. Treasury Department said it has found $3 million to keep Customs’ National Customs Automation Program operating the rest of the year.

   Congress must approve the transfer of the money from Treasury to Customs, and that could occur as early as this week.

   Customs Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced in late January that the agency had run out of money to keep NCAP alive. It gave the industry 30-days notice, which scheduled the shutdown date for March 13.

   NCAP gave the industry a glimpse of how Customs’ future umbrella system, the Automated Commercial Environment, would operate. The agency has been testing the system for about a year at the land-border ports of Laredo, Texas; Detroit and Port Huron, Mich.

   NCAP allowed certain high-volume, low-risk shipments to essentially be pre-cleared through Customs before reaching the border. Five importers participated in the system: Robert Bosch, Delphi Automotive Systems, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors.

   Besides criticism from automakers which had spent millions of dollars to prepare for NCAP, some members of Congress didn’t like the way the program had been handled.

   In a letter to Kelly, Representative Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government, said he was “extremely disappointed” that Customs would shut down its modernization process.

   Kolbe said, “this enormous modernization effort is a priority that calls for positive, responsible action — not walking away from making hard choices and using the press as a forum for budget brinkmanship.”

   Customs’ modernization efforts have been plagued since earlier this year because of lack of funding. The agency planned to hire a prime contractor this year to start building ACE.

   That effort was also put on hold. Customs needs at least $12 million to go forward with the bidding process and $25 million to pay startup costs for the contract.

   The agency is hopeful that Congress will begin funding ACE in fiscal 2001. The system is expected to cost about $1.8 billion during the next five to seven years.

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