More delays seen for ACE system

More delays seen for ACE system

NEW YORK - The Automated Commercial Environment -- Customs' next-generation computer architecture for processing imports -- will take longer to complete than planned due to the need for more funding and the incorporation of anti-terrorism features.

"ACE is going to take longer. We will need additional funding to keep it on a seven- to eight-year track," Robert C. Bonner, commissioner of of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, said Tuesday in a speech to the annual conference of the American Association of Exporters and Importers.

ACE is currently in development as a replacement for the antiquated and obsolete Automated Commercial System. Portions of the ACE system are being rolled out but the need to have the system perform security functions has apparently set back its development.

Customs had originally hoped to have ACE constructed on a five-year time frame, to be completed in 2007 or 2008. Officials now say that with the added technology and funding issues, ACE is now likely to be on an eight- to 10-year schedule which would have it completed by 2010 at the earliest.

Getting millions of additional dollars for ACE could present a difficulty -- it took years of lobbying and the creation of a new coalition of trade groups to initially get Congress committed to the project. However, industry observers say the fact that Customs is now a frontline agency in the war on terror -- and with billions being spent on border-protection initiatives such as the US-VISIT immigration program -- obtaining additional ACE funding at a much lower level may not see significant opposition.