Customs hopes for better buying

U.S. Customs and Border Protection unveiled a plan today to improve the way the agency buys goods and services.

The Acquisition Improvement Initiative (AI2), a strategic sourcing plan in line with the Homeland Security Department’s strategy, will allow officials to analyze agencywide buying trends, identify multiple purchases of similar items, and streamline in-bulk buying to reduce costs.

"When CBP was created as the unified border agency, we had to merge four organizations with different acquisition systems and different buying habits," John Ely, executive director of CBP's procurement office, said in a press release. "We quickly realized that we needed to strategically plan our purchases to fully support our priority anti-terrorism mission and that is where the Acquisition Improvement Initiative comes in."

The agency, which began working on the plan about eight months ago, is about to finish the first phase. The phase includes assessing current acquisition processes, identifying a future process and conducting spending analysis and strategic sourcing pilot tests. The second phase will include developing a future acquisition process, creating a transition plan to the new process and analyzing resources needed to support it. The last phase is where the agency will transition to the new plan.

Once in place, AI2 is expected to significantly reduce procurement cycle times, provide better oversight of purchased products and services, improve customer satisfaction and supplier relationships, provide better harmonization with the agency's strategic plan and budget, and decrease the amount of time mission personnel spend on procurement-related activities.

"By institutionalizing strategic sourcing, AI2 will transform CBP’s spending from a tactical to strategic focus and allow CBP to make more effective purchases that meet the needs of the entire agency and saves money," CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner said in the release.

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