Congress clears Customs funding

Congress last week gave the U.S. Customs Service the money it needs to keep

its massive computer modernization program alive for another year.

The Senate gave final approval to a $30.3 billion Treasury funding bill

for fiscal 2001 on Oct. 12 that included $130 million for Customs modernization.

The project is expected to replace a 17-year-old system that keeps breaking

down and that eventually will cost at least $1 billion to replace.

Final funding for the Automated Commercial Environment program came

as no surprise. Although lawmakers had balked at continuing the level of

funding needed to keep the modernization plan moving, a deal was hammered

out weeks ago to build a modern infrastructure that could more efficiently

process imports and exports.

The Information Technology Association of America, which represents

400 information technology companies, said the Senate's action is a huge

step forward for e-government.

"The U.S. is the epicenter of the new economy. We cannot allow a badly

out-of-date computer center to cause this country to become the world's

most backed-up border crossing," said ITAA president Harris Miller.

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