Customs modernization plans praised

Customs Service Modernization: Results of Review of First Automated Commercial Environment Expenditure Plan

The Customs Service's multimillion-dollar modernization project has been given an early stamp of approval by the General Accounting Office.

In a letter to Congress following a review of how Customs plans to spend $45 million in modernization funds, GAO officials said the spending plan "satisfies the legislative conditions specified in the appropriations act."

A multilevel review is one of the hurdles Customs must clear before money is released for its Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). Much like the funds for the Internal Revenue Service's project, Customs modernization money is put in a separate account and can be spent only after the agency gets approval from Treasury Department, GAO and congressional officials.

Congress released $45 million in Customs modernization funding in April, thereby enabling the service to award its $1.3 billion Customs Modernization Prime Integration Contract to IBM Global Services Inc. Customs was given an initial $5 million in March, and officials expect to request the remaining $80 million in September from the $130 million fiscal 2001 modernization account.

GAO officials generally praise Customs' modernization efforts in the letter, dated June 5, and in the briefing slides for an April 23 meeting with congressional staff members. They credit the service for instituting a capital planning and investment control process, setting up an enterprise architecture and complying with that architecture, and progressing through necessary reviews by the Customs Investment Review Board, Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget.

Furthermore, GAO officials praised Customs for taking action on two outstanding GAO recommendations: to justify and make ACE investment decisions incrementally and to strengthen ACE software acquisition management.

GAO officials, however, said that Customs needs to further justify investments in the International Trade Data System and integrate it into the overall ACE project. They have been expressing concerns about how ACE would interact with ITDS, which will be implemented as part of ACE and will create a single interface for submitting trade data.

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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