U.S. CUSTOMS: BUDGET SHORTFALLS WILL EXTEND ACE DEVELOPMENT
U.S. Customs officials at a House appropriations hearing Wednesday told legislators that another budget year of $130 million will add three years onto the agency’s current four-year plan to build its new computer system.
The Automated Commercial Environment is needed to replace the agency’s 17-year-old system, the Automated Commercial System. Customs estimates that it will cost about $1.4 billion to build the new system.
In fiscal 2001, Customs received $258 million for automation, but only $130 million was earmarked for ACE. The rest was for ACS maintenance and the International Trade Data System, the future front-end of ACE.
Charles W. Winwood, acting commissioner of Customs, told the House Appropriation Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government, that the $130 million for fiscal 2001 was “a good start.” “It gets us moving in the right direction,” he said.
The Coalition for Customs Automation Funding, an industry group that lobbies Congress to fund ACE, has told Congress that continued funding levels of $130 million would stretch the new agency system’s development to 14 years. “I’m optimistic that’s not going to happen,” Winwood said.
CCAF will step up its lobbying of Congress to increase the fiscal 2002 budget for ACE to $308 million to keep the system on the four-year schedule. Both House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees have indicated that they plan to draft authorization bills next month that would include the full amount of money to keep ACE on schedule. The authorizations would then be debated by Congress.