Customs officials ask for millions to keep old import system on 'life support' and millions more to develop an automated system
The U.S. Customs Service will have to keep an antiquated system running
on "life support" for at least four years while a new system is phased into
service, Treasury officials told Congress on Tuesday.
Millions of dollars are needed to patch the old system and build the new
one, said James Flyzik, the chief information officer for the Treasury Department,
testifying at a House Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Subcommittee
Customs is seeking $12 million this year to begin preliminary work on the
Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) program. Officials also say they
need $123 million this year to keep the aging Automated Commercial System
(ACS) going while the new system is built.
The old system, built in 1984, is experiencing repeated brownouts and blackouts,
slowing the flow of goods at every port in the United States. Its biggest
problem is that it must handle each import individually.
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), the subcommittee chairman, said it is urgent to
find a way to pay for Customs modernization because Customs "remains tethered
to processes that are legendary of its traditional way of doing business — transaction by transaction, and in most cases, on paper."
The administration is backing a new system but wants users to pay a fee
to pay for the automated system, expected to cost about $1 billion.
"It will take several years to build it. We'll be spending a lot of money
on it, but it won't be up and operating," said John Simpson, Treasury's
deputy assistant secretary for regulatory, tariff and trade enforcement,
pointing out the need to keep the old system patched up.
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