In shift, DHS chooses cluster plan for Customs system tests

The Homeland Security Department's Customs and Border Protection agency has decided to expand testing of its automated manifest system for trucks crossing the border in clusters around the country, in a measured approach to rolling out a key part of the massive Automated Commercial Environment virtual border system.

CBP said it chose the cluster strategy to boost efficiency and centralize training. The agency added that the test would later be expanded to include ACE's commercial trucking participants at all land border ports, and eventually will include all modes of transportation.

CBP said in a Federal Register notice issued today that it had chosen to expand the truck manifest test system from its initial pilot site of Blaine, Wash., to seven ports in Michigan this month.

CBP already has expanded its Blaine pilot project for the test, which started in December 2004, to 11 other land ports in Washington state. Those 12 test sites together form a cluster in which Sumas, Wash., has served as the model port. The Michigan cluster won't have a designated model port for the test, CBP said.

The cluster approach is a departure from CBP's earlier policy of deploying the test sites at widely dispersed single ports in California, New York, Texas and elsewhere.

The agency said the cluster strategy would 'allow for more efficient equipment set-up, site checkouts, port briefings and central training.'

The automated manifest system is part of ACE's overall function of speeding the transmission of information about cargo entering the country, and the duties and requirements related to it, through federal processing.

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