GAO: IBM doing well at Customs

Prime contractor IBM Corp. appears to be performing well on the Customs Service's Automated Commercial Environment, the agency's new trade processing system, according to a recent General Accounting Office report.

IBM's systems integration and acceptance testing is being conducted in accordance with best practices, and the test results are positive, GAO reported. In addition, "data on unresolved system defects show a recent downward trend, suggesting that the contractor is delivering a quality product," the report said.

However, GAO found fault with Customs' reliance on IBM's capabilities and reputation to guarantee a quality system, as well as its reliance on the Customs modernization staff and support contractors to oversee IBM's testing.

Customs should require independent verification and validation, in which an independent organization reviews test management processes, products and results, GAO said.

Brenda Smith, acting director of Customs' Office of Planning, said in her letter that while Customs has implemented elements of IV&V, it would engage nonprofit Mitre Corp. of McLean, Va., to review, document and strengthen the process.

GAO is required to evaluate periodically the progress of the ACE project and to report to Congress. Its latest report was published March 3.

The initial contract for ACE is for five years with two five-year options and has an estimated value of $1.3 billion. IBM of Armonk, N.Y., won the contract in April 2001. ACE is a major part of the Customs Modernization program, a total overhaul of the agency's information technology systems.

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