Customs to halt modernization pilot

Customs to halt modernization pilot

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

FEB. 11—The Customs Service, citing a lack of funds, next month plans to shut down a prototype system it fielded for the National Customs Automation Program.

The Treasury Department agency yesterday posted in the Federal Register a notice of its intent to halt the Automated Commercial Environment pilot.

The shutdown will take effect March 13, when private-sector participants must stop using ACE to provide data about goods they want to import.

Through the ACE project, Customs had planned to replace its antiquated Automated Commercial System. A chief goal was to let importers, exporters and customs brokers interact with the bureau through electronic means and to cut the time it took to clear the import or export of cargo.

'We've basically exhausted our internal options,' said Charles Armstrong, director of Customs' modernization initiative. 'We've taken a lot of hits this year to help fund' projects at other Treasury bureaus.

Although Customs is halting its work on ACE, bureau and Treasury officials are meeting to come up with alternative funding plans for continuing the modernization project, Armstrong said.

James J. Flyzik, Treasury's chief information officer, said the department is looking internally for money it could reprogram for use by Customs in this fiscal year.

'It is a difficult process because we have many critical programs competing,' Flyzik said.

The most feasible option might be to await fiscal 2001 funds and rekindle the project, said Lisa Ross, Treasury's acting assistant secretary for management.

But Armstrong said that by stopping the ACE pilot and delaying the modernization, Customs will lose the momentum the pilot generated in the import-export community.

'It is a bad-faith effort on the part of the government,' he said. 'We will lose personnel and corporate institutional knowledge.'

He said the modernization project had piqued the interest of vendors. 'These vendors have spent six months formulating their teams. Now they will have to disband them and they will lose their momentum, also,' he said.

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