Senate, Customs debate funding import system

A request by the Customs Service to fund a new computer system by increasing user fees met stiff opposition in the Senate Finance Committee late last week, but members agreed that the system still must be funded. Customs wants $1.4 billion to build the Automated Commercial Environment, which would

A request by the Customs Service to fund a new computer system by increasing user fees met stiff opposition in the Senate Finance Committee late last week, but members agreed that the system still must be funded.

Customs wants $1.4 billion to build the Automated Commercial Environment, which would speed up cargo clearance and examination procedures for the $1 trillion worth of imports coming into the United States every year. Customs has been using a prototype of the ACE system at select ports and now wants to roll it out nationwide over the next four years.

ACE would replace Customs' aging Automated Commercial System, which last year processed 19 million trade entries - 10 percent more than the previous year. Customs uses ACS to collect data from importers about what they are bringing across the border. The data is used to assess whether the shipments need to be inspected and to collect tariffs. In most cases, this information is filed when, or shortly before, goods enter the country.

But last year, ACS crashed at least three times when the volume of transactions choked the system, causing delays of several hours in the movement of imports.

"We clearly need a new system," Raymond Kelly, commissioner of Customs, told the committee. "ACS has been in existence for 16 years. It uses software that was designed in 1978. It does not enable us to do business the way trade does business."

The proposed increase in the existing user fee would raise $163 million. The increase would take effect in fiscal 2000 and raise money that would be used beginning in fiscal 2001 to pay for the rollout of ACE. Customs needs $195 million in fiscal 2000 to fund ACE at the rate proposed in the installation schedule, a Customs spokesman said. In addition, the agency needs $47 million in fiscal 2000 to keep ACS running.

The funding proposal, which was offered last year and was rejected, again found little bipartisan support on the Finance Committee. "It is clear Congress is not going to adopt this fee," said Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas). Gramm said the Clinton administration's proposal "reached a new level of phoniness" by denying Customs the money it needs for the system while ignoring the fact that the current fee raises $900 million.

However, Gramm and other senators agreed that it is time to replace the old system and discussed taking the funds from other Treasury Department programs or claiming some of the money generated by the current fee, which currently flows directly into the U.S. Treasury.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) warned Kelly not to make the same mistake the Internal Revenue Service made when its computer upgrade was funded. "We gave [the IRS] $4 billion to upgrade their computer system, and 90 percent of it was wasted," Grassley said.

Woody Hall, Customs' chief information officer, said Customs has been cooperating with the General Accounting Office on its reforms, including development of an enterprise system architecture, adoption of Software Engineering Institute practices and reliance on outside consultants to improve cost estimates.

"All these things that we are doing are precisely aimed at avoiding what the IRS did," Hall said.

Customs two weeks ago hired Mitre Corp. to help write the request for proposals for ACE, Hall said. "We want to make sure we don't write an overly restrictive statement of work," he said.

Gene Millosh, president of the American Association of Exporters and Importers, said it was encouraging to see the committee shy away from increasing the user fee. He said a letter-writing campaign that the association sponsored appeared to have swayed many members.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.