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Highlights

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is conducting a multiyear, multibillion-dollar acquisition of a new trade processing system planned to support the movement of legitimate imports and exports and strengthen border security. By congressional mandate, expenditure plans for this system, called the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), must meet certain conditions, including GAO review. This study addresses the extent to which the latest plan, for fiscal year 2004, satisfies these conditions, provides information about DHS's efforts to implement GAO's recommendations for improving ACE management, and makes observations about ACE.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To assist CBP in managing ACE and increasing the chances that future releases will deliver promised capabilities on time and within budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security and the CBP Commissioner, should direct the CBP Chief Information Officer to ensure the independence of its IV&V agent.
Closed - Implemented
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) established an IV&V function to assist in overseeing ACE. Further, CBP has taken steps to ensure the independence of its IV&V agent by selecting a contractor that has had no prior involvement in the modernization program.
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To assist CBP in managing ACE and increasing the chances that future releases will deliver promised capabilities on time and within budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security and the CBP Commissioner, should direct the CBP Chief Information Officer to ensure that future expenditure plans are based on cost estimates that are reconciled with independent cost estimates.
Closed - Implemented
The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has continued to ensure that future expenditure plans are based on cost estimates that are reconciled with independent cost estimates. For example, the cost estimate in the fiscal year 2006 expenditure plan is based on the estimates in the current ACE program plan, and CBP, with contractor support, compared the program plan cost estimate with the independent cost estimate. According to the analysis performed, the two estimates are consistent.
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To assist CBP in managing ACE and increasing the chances that future releases will deliver promised capabilities on time and within budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security and the CBP Commissioner, should direct the CBP Chief Information Officer to reconsider the ACE acquisition schedule and cost estimates in light of early release problems, including these early releases' cascading effects on future releases and their relatively small size compared with later releases and in light of the need to avoid the past levels of concurrency among activities within and between releases.
Closed - Implemented
In response to the cost overrun on Releases 3 and 4, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the ACE development contractor established a new cost baseline of $196 million for these releases, extended the associated baseline schedule and began reporting schedule and cost performance relative to the new baselines. Additionally, in July 2004, a new version of the ACE Program Plan was developed that rebaselined the ACE program, extending delivery of the last ACE release from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2010, adding a new screening and targeting release, and increasing the ACE life-cycle cost estimate by about $1 billion to $3.1 billion. Last, the new program schedule reflects less concurrency between future releases.
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To assist CBP in managing ACE and increasing the chances that future releases will deliver promised capabilities on time and within budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security and the CBP Commissioner, should direct the CBP Chief Information Officer to define measures, and collect and use associated metrics, for determining whether prior and future program management improvements are successful.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) program office have made changes that are intended to improve overall program management, and report that additional program management changes are envisioned. However, CBP and ACE officials said that they have yet to define indicators to measure the effectiveness of these changes.
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection To assist CBP in managing ACE and increasing the chances that future releases will deliver promised capabilities on time and within budget, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security and the CBP Commissioner, should direct the CBP Chief Information Officer to report quarterly to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations on efforts to address recently reviewed issues, as well as on our previous but unaddressed recommendations.
Closed - Implemented
The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has submitted quarterly reports to the Appropriations Committees that described its efforts to address open GAO recommendations since November 2002.

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