U.S. Customs and Border Protection secured funding to expand the Automated Commercial Environment for the next 18 months, bringing the flagship trade automation initiative out of development limbo, an agency official said Wednesday.
The agency will tap roughly $70 million carried over from past fiscal budgets to help meet its goal of finishing the ACE initiative in three years, the CBP official said at the agency’s East Coast Trade Symposium in National Harbor, Md. The expansion of ACE had been uncertain, as President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget didn’t include any money for its build out. ACE is years behind schedule and its budget has grown from $1.4 billion to more than $3 billion.
“We are also looking to find additional funding and ways we can be more efficient with our operations and maintenance funding, “ said Brenda Smith, CBP’s executive director for trade policy and programs in the Office of International Trade.
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told symposium attendees on Tuesday that he supported expanding ACE but he needed a clearer framework to gain support in Congress. Brady, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on trade, said he plans to introduce customs reauthorization legislation by the end of the year.
Customs transferred all affected parties, including ocean lines and rail carriers, to the ACE e-manifest: Rail and Sea in October. The agency completed the first step in its simplified entry rollout this year by expanding ACE to 16 major airports, said Vincent Annunziato, director of cargo control and release at the office of International Trade. CBP is expanding the capabilities of the simplified entry program to include single transaction bonds, a document image system, simplified entry reports and a remote location file option.
“The real advantage is when we roll it out to (the) ocean (side) because we will have the early release information,” said Amy Magnus, director of customs affairs and compliance at A.N. Deringer, a Vermont-based logistics company.
The simplified entry pilot will expand to the ocean vessels side in 2014. The benefits for the trade community include being able to transmit minimal data fields to secure the release of cargo and a
paperless release process, Magnus said.