Will IBM prove an ACE in hole for Customs?

Will IBM prove an ACE in hole for Customs?


For the next five years, the Customs Service will focus on trade compliance, the first phase of its three-phase modernization project.

Last month, the agency awarded a $1.3 billion, 15-year contract to IBM Corp. for the modernization.

Customs wants to replace its 17-year-old Automated Commercial System with the Automated Commercial Environment.

Woody Hall
'IBM brought us a high Capability Maturity Model level and a very strong understanding of Customs,' said S.W. 'Woody' Hall, the agency's chief information officer and its assistant commissioner for information and technology.

In its proposal, IBM also strongly emphasized the need to maintain a dialogue with the trade community and Congress throughout the modernization, he said.

The antiquated ACS depends heavily on paper and manual input and has endured several costly shutdowns because of data overloads. With ACE, Customs plans to improve its efficiency in managing and monitoring the nation's imports and exports.

The cast

IBM's global services unit will run the program. Its major subcontractors include Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va.; Computer Sciences Corp.; KPMG International of New York; Lockheed Martin Corp.; and Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services Inc. of Washington. Additionally, IBM has lined up more than 40 small businesses.

CSC will assist with information security and telecommunications. KPMG will provide knowledge management and training services. Lockheed Martin's mission systems division will develop and integrate new systems and software.

Once it is satisfied with the implementation of systems to help it manage trade compliance, Customs will shift the modernization focus to internal administrative systems and enforcement systems, such as the Seized Asset and Case Tracking System, Hall said.

'By the time we finish with the first phase, these systems will be fairly old and ready for replacement,' he added. 'We need modern tools for managing our personnel, budget, accounts and compliance control.'

This year, the agency has a modernization budget of $138 million and plans to ask Congress for another $80 million later in the year to supplement the funding.

Customs currently spends as much on maintaining its old systems as it does on modernization efforts. 'Once we get more funding, that balance will change,' favoring the systems upgrades, Hall said.

The competition

IBM beat out three other vendors for the Customs project. Accenture of Chicago, Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. also vied for the contract.


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