Customs Service Modernization:

Actions Initiated to Correct ACE Management and Technical Weaknesses

T-AIMD-99-186: Published: May 13, 1999. Publicly Released: May 13, 1999.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the weaknesses of the Customs Service's Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) project.

GAO noted that: (1) Customs is well over 2 years behind its original National Customs Automation Program prototype schedule; (2) Customs was not building ACE within the context of an enterprise systems architecture, or blueprint of its agencywide future systems environment; (3) Customs developed and published an architecture in July and August 1997; (4) GAO reviewed this architecture and reported in May 1998 that it was not effective because it was neither complete nor enforced; (5) in response, Customs agreed to develop a complete architecture and establish a process to ensure compliance; (6) Customs reports that its architecture will be completed in May 1999; (7) Customs did not identify and evaluate a full range of alternatives to its defined ACE solution before commencing development activities; (8) Customs did not develop a reliable life cycle cost estimate for the approach it selected; (9) Customs is not making investment decisions incrementally as required by the Clinger-Cohen Act and the Office of Management and Budget; (10) although Customs has decided to implement ACE as a series of 21 increments, it is not justifying investing in each increment on the basis of defined costs and benefits and a positive return on investment for each increment; (11) Customs lacks the capability to effectively develop or acquire ACE software; and (12) Customs lacked a software process improvement program to effectively address these and other software process weaknesses.

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