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Highlights

GAO discussed the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service's (US&FCS) Commercial Information Management System (CIMS). GAO noted that CIMS: (1) development funds were inadequate; (2) hardware deficiencies limited the US&FCS staff's file access; (3) software design deficiencies and complexities hindered immediate responses to customers' requests; (4) software development was suspended because Commerce's Inspector General objected to CIMS program office contracting procedures; (5) foreign posts experienced faulty communication links with the US&FCS domestic central database; (6) information quality was questionable, since CIMS personnel were not systematically or consistently updating client files; (7) market research database was insufficient to meet clients' varied requests; (8) field staff adequacy was questionable; (9) completion in 1990 would require an estimated $13.5 million, and CIMS would require an estimated $9 million to $11 million in future support funds; and (10) was expected to expand its capabilities under new legislation. GAO also found that the International Trade Administration suspended CIMS development pending a CIMS viability determination and an examination of other database options.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce 1. The Secretary of Commerce should assess whether the resulting system fully complies with the requirements in the Omnibus Trade Act regarding the composition of the export promotion component of the National Trade Data Bank. If it is determined that the expansion of CIMS to include all items required by the law is not feasible or practical, the Secretary should seek legislative relief from this requirement.
Closed - Implemented
Although this was not a formal recommendation, GAO believes that the intent of the conclusion, to improve CIMS operations, warrants followup. The CIMS strategy has evolved to include NTDB as a complementary tool. NTDB is the dissemination tool for US&FCS foreign trade contacts and market research. Relief from the Omnibus Trade Act is not deemed to be required.

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