Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, "global movement management" systems shuttle goods and services, capital and labor, and bits and bytes around the globe to provide the substance of daily life: jobs, wages, food, electricity, education, news and information, and leisure and entertainment. As a result, nations and economies are becoming increasingly integrated and interdependent. Today, policy makers, business leaders and security professionals are focusing on these similarities as the key to developing sound strategies for improving the performance, security and resilience of global movement systems.
Those who have managed and operated portions of the global movement system-on the front lines in government or in the private sector-almost universally agree that we need to leverage how we use technology to simplify work processes and make human activity more effective. One effort by the U.S. government to simplify work processes and employ technology to make work more effective is the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system developed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
CBP is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of U.S. borders at and between official ports of entry. The dual mission of Customs and Border Protection is to protect U.S. citizens from terrorist activities and other threats to public health and safety, while facilitating the movement of lawful trade across U.S. borders. ACE supports Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security mission-critical functions, providing the capability to meet strategic objectives and responsibilities.
Security Improvements, Performance Work Together in ACE
The ACE system works at the interface between national security threats and the global trade environment where increased risk and volume have placed unprecedented demands on CBP personnel and resources. The ACE Program is designed to provide the right information to the right people at the right time and place to protect citizens, sustain economic vitality, and maximize efficiencies gained through technology solutions. ACE modernization is an enterprise-wide initiative that includes sweeping process and technology improvements across Customs and Border Protection. It touches nearly every CBP employee, as well as the trade community, participating government agencies and the traveling public.
The ACE Program also brings an enterprise-wide approach to planning, defining, developing, and implementing new business processes, designed to increase national security through accurate, available data and promote seamless trade processing, quota enforcement and collection of duties, taxes and fees. It has dramatically streamlined Customs and Border Protection processing of imports and exports with automated administrative and formerly paper-based functions.
The ACE modernization program continues to leverage robust technologies and global best practices to provide the capacity and flexibility to address critical trade and security requirements. Throughout this program, Customs and Border Protection has built and implemented innovative releases with sophisticated technology designed to achieve the twin goals of securing our borders while facilitating trade.
The ACE Program began in 2001, when Customs and Border Protection partnered with the private sector to help develop ACE as the centerpiece of a multi-year modernization effort. This next generation technology is being built with significant input from the trade and transportation community, and in collaboration with a diverse team of leading information technology and consulting partners. The ACE Secure Data Portal is essentially a customized, secure web site for authorized users that connects Customs and Border Protection, the trade community, and participating government agencies by providing a single, centralized, online access point for communications and information related to cargo shipments.
ACE Demonstrates Improved Security, Economic Performance
The Automated Commercial Environment serves nearly 14,000 ACE portal accounts, including more than 1,300 importer accounts, more than 800 broker accounts, and nearly 11,000 carrier accounts. It is one of the largest assured delivery networks in the world, processing close to 6.5 million transactions per day. To date, more than $14bn in duties and fees have been collected through the ACE monthly statement process since the first payment was made in July 2004. The ACE solution for truck release at U.S. land borders has been deployed to all 99 U.S. land border ports. Ultimately, ACE will provide a multi-modal manifest (land, air, rail, and sea) capability-allowing importers, exporters, and transportation providers to eventually use one system, ACE, to move goods across U.S. borders.
Since the initial launch of ACE capabilities to select Customs and Border Protection personnel in 2002, the program has implemented eight major functional releases, deploying new capabilities to reduce processing time and improve access to information for Customs and Border Protection personnel, the trade community, and other participating government agencies.
ACE has created, and continues to drive, a more transparent supply chain, allowing officials to determine if goods are safe-or may require screening-before they ever reach our shores. The program's success has resulted in improved mission effectiveness, security, sustainability, and productivity, moving goods to market faster with positive impacts on U.S., Mexican, and Canadian economies, benefiting consumers and business alike. The technology also enables increased data sharing and integrated on-line access.
Sharing ACE Capabilities to Improve Information Sharing on a Global Scale
The ACE program has developed a way to help other agencies to improve information sharing through an initiative called the International Trade Data System (ITDS). The goal of ITDS is to implement a secure, integrated, government-wide system to meet private and federal requirements for the electronic collection, use, and dissemination of standard trade and transportation data. ITDS enhances the ability of Customs and Border Protection and other agencies to target high-risk cargo, persons and conveyances, and extends the capabilities of ACE by bringing together critical security, public health, public safety and environmental protection agencies through a common platform.
ACE and ITDS comprise a single system that allows private sector entities to report data once, using a single, harmonized data set, to agencies making admissibility decisions and collecting non-public data and statistics. The ITDS "single-window" will provide for a single electronic filing rather than separate filings to multiple agencies. ITDS will help the government provide international trade data that are more accurate, complete and timely. Most importantly, it will also enhance federal agencies' ability to target high-risk cargo, persons and conveyances. This "single-window" can eliminate redundant filings, enable agencies to work collaboratively, and by incorporating international reporting standards, facilitate data sharing and enforcement cooperation among governments. It will reduce the burden on business and increase the efficiency of the government's collection of international trade transaction data by substituting standard electronic messages for the redundant reporting-often on paper forms-that occurs today.
Ultimately, ACE has the potential to integrate data collection and support operations for more than 100 federal entities. To date, agency participation in ITDS has been uneven, but several new agencies joined ITDS after the SAFE Port Act became law in October 2006. The act, mandated by Congress, requires all agencies that need documentation for the clearing or licensing for the importation or exportation of cargo to participate in ITDS. In September 2007, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo requiring mandatory integration into ACE by 2009 for all agencies that collect information to clear or license the import or export of cargo. This will allow ACE/ITDS to serve as a custodian of records on international trade transactions, providing federal agencies with a convenient, single point of access to data on trade transactions, with each agency having its own, role-based level of access.
Blueprint for More Effective Global Movement Management
Society feels that global movement systems should be like water, electricity and other utilities: People simply expect them to work and to be available on demand. When they fail, consequences are rapid, widespread and significant. There is no doubt that achieving the goal of a more efficient, secure and resilient global movement system is a challenge with profound economic, human, technological and governmental implications. In fact, the health and well-being of our society depends on highly integrated, complex economic systems that serve to move people, cargo, conveyances, money and information around the world every day. Successful public-private partnerships and strategies like ACE and ITDS show that the large and complex programs can be implemented with governance structures that involve the private sector and government working together to create cost-effective and highly reliable systems that improve mission effectiveness, security and resilience while improving commerce.
Alan Heath is a partner with IBM Global Business Services Public Sector Practice and its Border Management and Security Solutions Team. Visit www.ibm.com.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.