Export Promotion:

Problems With Commerce's Commercial Information Management System

NSIAD-89-162: Published: Aug 31, 1989. Publicly Released: Oct 5, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO analyzed the availability, data quality, budget, and full-implementation potential of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service's (US&FCS) Commercial Information Management System (CIMS), a comprehensive, automated trade information database intended to help domestic businesses establish themselves in the export marketplace.

GAO found that: (1) 83 of 169 US&FCS district offices and overseas posts had some CIMS operational capability; (2) US&FCS planned to install CIMS in all remaining offices by early 1990, although such installation required CIMS software and training, Department of State approval, and travel funds for oversight staff; (3) such hardware, software, and telecommunications problems as insufficient storage capacity, slow operating speeds, time-consuming update procedures, and limited quality of market research data have limited CIMS usage; (4) the Department of Commerce suspended plans to improve CIMS software in January 1989; (5) Commerce has spent about $39 million through the beginning of fiscal year (FY) 1989 on CIMS and its predecessor systems, and will require between $9 million and $13.5 million between FY 1990 and 1993 for CIMS support and program costs; (6) US&FCS staff reductions could hamper its ability to perform necessary extensive CIMS data input efforts; (7) Commerce planned to combine existing CIMS data with information from other agencies to establish the legislatively required National Trade Data Bank, although CIMS did not include information regarding tariffs, export financing, and barter and countertrade transactions; and (8) Commerce planned to commission independent technical and strategic reviews to assess CIMS technical design, project management, user support structure, future enhancements, costs, and field support.

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