After 15 Years, CBP Completes Final Major ACE Milestone, One of the U.S. Govt.’s Most Complex IT Projects

Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) Logo
Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)

On 24 February 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released the last of its major trade processing capabilities for the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). ACE is the U.S. Single Window system, which aims to enhance cargo processing by automating all customs-related filing functions required by CBP and other U.S. Partner Government Agencies (PGA).  In this update, CBP has released reconciliation, liquidation and drawback capabilities that aim to streamline and speed trade processing by CBP.

Under this new regime, many reconciliation processes already in place will remain the same:  reconciliation will continue to be filed for value, classification, 9802, and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) issues; entries flagged for FTA must be reconciled within 12 months, all others within 21; no changes to the types of reconciliation that can be filed. While a few of the reconciliation processes remain the same, many new capabilities have been released, including: expansion of reconciliation processes to all ports of entry and Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEEs); removal of requirement to request participation for all importers of record; removal of “blanket flagging” for each entry; ACE validations of entry type, reconciliation criteria, and reconciliation issue type.

ACE also released liquidation capabilities in their latest update, including: processing of liquidations on a weekly cycle instead of a bi-weekly cycle; automatic acceptance of temporary importations under Bond Extensions with room for CBP to deny requests; displaying on an electronic bulletin entry summaries that are deem liquidated, as “deem liquidated” for the basis of liquidation.

Finally, the latest update includes Core and Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA) drawback capabilities. Per the update, all Automated Broker Interface (ABI) drawback filings must be filed in ACE and will no longer be accepted in the Automated Commercial System (ACS). This change to the drawback system, authorized by the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA) allows for the liberalization and automation of drawback operations, which is expected to increase the number of drawback claims filed with CBP and the amount of duty, taxes and fees correspondingly refunded.

The recent deployment of ACE represents a major milestone to CBP, which has faced a struggle in implementing one of the “most complex IT projects the federal government has undertaken” for over 15 years. Between 2001 and 2013, CBP spent $3.2 billion for the complete development of the ACE program. The development had occurred slowly, and in 2013 CBP switched its development to the Agile methodology. Under the Agile methodology, ACE was launched in piecemeal from 2013 to present-day. While this allowed for ACE to launch and meet many of its development milestone, the ACE system was met with some development issues, most notably system outages. Despite the development issues the system has encountered, this latest ACE update represents, “a monumental milestone for CBP, the culmination of many years of dedicated partnership and innovation from government employees and the trade community” according to Executive Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade Brenda Smith.

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