Homeland Security

Hiccups for CBP's new port system as it nears completion

Editorial credit: Sheila Fitzgerald / Shutterstock.com 

A cargo ship at the Port of Oakland. (Photo credit: Sheila Fitzgerald / Shutterstock.com)

Customs and Border Protection's old electronic import/export data processing system, the Automated Commercial System,  is in its final days after a decade of phased implementation.

The agency said in early November it is working to complete the final deployment of core trade processing capabilities to its Automated Commercial Environment system and will decommission the old trade processing system from most of its duties early next year.

Kevin McAleenan , acting commissioner of CBP, told an international trade symposium in Rhode Island in early November that the last of ACE's core trade processing capabilities will be operational by the end of February. He said he would "declare victory" then, according to a report in Supply Chain Quarterly.

ACE is the primary system the trade community uses to report imports and exports and through which the government determines admissibility of that cargo.  CBP sees ACE as the "single window" the cargo transport industry can use to automate and streamline the manual processes associated with importing and exporting goods across U.S. borders. It is the electronic portal for rail, sea and truck cargo manifests and the primary system for industry to send data to other federal agencies via the International Trade Data System.

CBP has been developing and deploying ACE incrementally over more than a decade. Its modular development process has allowed the project to continue despite delays for software development and other issues.

ACE is due to supplant the old Automated Commercial System on Dec. 9, according to a recent Federal Register notice. ACS will continue to accept shipping reconciliation filings, the agency said.

ACE is in the last rounds of updates, but the home stretch has been a bit rocky,  with a couple of substantial outages since last August.

The latest, on Nov. 14, began at 3:30 p.m. EST and continued until 10 p.m., according to CBP.  ACE is now functioning normally, an agency spokesperson told FCW in a Nov. 15 email.

The latest outage follows a near full-day outage of the system on Aug. 2. The summer event prompted CBP's Commercial Operations Advisory Council to form an Outages Working Group to come up with cargo system downtime procedures and move to establish uniform, basic downtime processes.

CPB said the recent outage was not related to the August event.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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