CBP lands TMF award to modernize legacy system


Customs and Border Protection's automated cargo fee collection system will get a $15 million boost from the Technology Modernization Fund upgrade from a legacy system to upgrade its 30-year-old automated cargo processing system.

The fund is a pot of no-year money authorized by the Modernizing Government Technology Act and funded with $150 million through several rounds of appropriations. Agencies are required to pay back awards to replenish the revolving fund. The goal is to jumpstart work on upgrades to legacy systems, usually involving a move to cloud or managed services. Awards are determined by a board currently led by Maria Roat, the deputy federal CIO.

In recent days, some House Democrats have urged legislative leaders to inject the fund with $1 billion in new money to support efforts to modernize some of the balky technology at the Small Business Administration, the IRS and elsewhere that has led to hiccups in the delivery of COVID-19 relief funds and loans. The House included a $1 billion boost to the TMF in a bill passed in May but there were no additional funds proposed in a Senate bill released this week.

CBP looked to the fund to modernize the ACS payment system – part of the agency's Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) platform. ACE is the primary system for the federal government to process and management risk for cargo import and export. The agency has been upgrading ACE over the last two decades to make it easier and more efficient, aiming for an automated, paperless "single window" of forms, payments and other trade-related documentation for export and import trade brokers.

CBP's plans to move ACS, which includes 4 million lines of COBOL code running on the agency's last remaining mainframe computer, to a cloud platform. The cloud-based core collection system will modernize both the underlying technology and the code base, according to CBP.

The agency said the modernization will also help push more cost and operational efficiencies into the system, cutting down on software and maintenance expenses. It will also provide a more functional and collection system for the trade brokers that use it, said the agency.

As the end of fiscal 2020 approaches, the TMF board has allocated almost $116 million across 10 projects. It said it continues to accept and evaluate agency proposals to modernize.

The makeup of the TMF board has changed in recent weeks, with the departure of former federal CIO Suzette Kent and Anil Cheryian, the former director of the Technology. A new GSA representative has yet to be named to the board.

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, 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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