Congress imports millions for ACE

House Appropriations report

Congress is planning to provide the Customs Service with at least $170 million more for its five-year modernization program in fiscal 2002 than the Bush administration requested.

Customs' Automated Commercial Environment is a Web-based system to handle information on imports. The agency awarded the $1.3 billion Customs Modernization Prime Integration Contract to IBM Corp. in April, which will include replacing the 17-year-old Automated Commercial System.

The administration request for fiscal 2002 did not increase the current year's funding, but the House's addition of $170 million would bring the total funding for the program up to $300 million. The funding is intended to provide "ample resources to begin making a significant impact on Customs processes at critical, high-volume ports of entry," according to a House Appropriations Committee report released July 17.

"The committee strongly supports this effort and believes it merits some of the highest priority in funding for this bill," the committee report states.

In the report, committee members expressed concern that the administration's smaller budget request would delay the project and increase the possibility that it would fail.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Treasury/U.S. Postal Service appropriations bill on July 26, but that report is not yet available.

The Senate also provided more than the White House requested, increasing funding by about $100 million, according to Sam Banks, director of Customs work for Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, an ACE subcontractor. Banks also is a former acting Customs commissioner.

Christopher J. Dorobek contributed to this report.

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