In response to a recommendation by the Government Accountability Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said it plans to complete by this October an interagency approach to the post-core management of the Automated Commercial Environment that includes processes for prioritizing ACE enhancements and sharing the costs of ACE operations, maintenance, and development.
The 22 federal agencies CBP has identified as requiring documentation to clear or license goods for import or export are all authorized to access ACE, the GAO states. Of these, 16 have established web linkages between ACE and their own data analysis systems, 14 obtain agency-specific data through the ACE message set, and 17 receive document image files from importers through ACE. In addition, 15 have completed or are conducting pilots to initiate or expand their participation in ACE.
At the same time, the report finds, there is considerable variation in the agencies’ use of ACE for import processing. For example, the Food and Drug Administration has integrated its systems with ACE and uses ACE data to review imports under its jurisdiction and target those that pose higher public health risks for manual review to determine their admissibility. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration is using ACE data to review and clear imported motor vehicles and equipment for entry into the U.S. but also continues to obtain information directly from importers when necessary. The Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet integrated ACE into its operations, among other things because the information available in ACE can be insufficient to meet FWS’ regulatory responsibilities.
The report finds that using implemented ACE capabilities has improved the efficiency of import processing and brought associated cost savings. For example, ACE has significantly reduced reliance on paper forms, yielded faster processing and clearing of eligible shipments for release, resulted in labor and storage cost savings, and lowered the number of supply chain disruptions.
ACE has also strengthened enforcement of trade laws and regulations, the report states. For example, a reduction in the time required to process paper forms has allowed CBP staff to devote more time to higher value-added activities. ACE can also be employed to refine and focus targeting efforts because the results of each examination are recorded in ACE for future reference.
However, the report states, CBP has not yet established an interagency approach for managing ACE now that its core functions have been deployed. ACE users have identified a number of shortcomings, including the cumbersome nature of validating data in ACE to assess compliance, capabilities that were included in ACS but have not been deployed in ACE, and difficulty transmitting messages and required information. While CBP has prioritized seven enhancements and identified 22 others for consideration as priorities, it has not established a process for prioritizing all suggested enhancements. CBP also has not identified funding for continued ACE development, including enhancements, after fiscal year 2018. The report notes that CBP is leading an effort to develop an ACE management approach that includes processes for prioritizing enhancements and sharing costs but that this approach has not been finalized.