Industry backs Customs modernization

Customs modernization request for proposals

A coalition of industry representatives called on Congress Thursday to increase funding for the Customs Service's modernization plan.

President Bush has proposed $130 million for Customs' Automated Commercial Environment for fiscal 2002, a figure that would stretch the implementation of the system across 14 years, industry officials said during meeting with reporters and congressional staff members.

"The $130 million figure is probably insufficient," said Robert Cresanti, senior vice president of government affairs for the Information Technology Association of America, an Arlington, Va.-based industry group.

That kind of piecemeal funding is a "recipe for failure," said Sam Banks, chief customs officer for Inc., San Mateo, Calif., and a former acting Customs commissioner. If ACE is going to be implemented, it should be implemented efficiently and effectively, he said, and it needs to be funded across a five-year time frame.

The group has launched its lobbying effort just as Customs is in the home stretch of preparations to award the prime contract for ACE. That could happen as soon as next week.

Customs is waiting for approval from the General Accounting Office before it can award the contract. GAO's approval would release the $45 million from fiscal 2001 that would fund the prime contract.

Officials from Caterpillar Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. were part of the group supporting the Customs modernization.

Caterpillar is able to track parts as they are transported around the world, said Ronald Schoff, manager of customs and export regulations for Caterpillar. "But when they reach the United States and Customs asks for documentation, we have to stop and hit the print button," he said.

The 17-year-old Automated Commercial System is increasingly unable to deal with the requirements of a global economy and has become increasingly susceptible to brownouts, delaying shipments of imported goods at U.S. ports and border crossings.

"Customs is ready for this," Banks said. The agency has a business plan in place and is merely waiting for the necessary approval to begin.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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