ACE gets high marks and a warning

The Homeland Security Department has made progress in developing the Automated Commercial Environment, but the remaining shortcomings are likely to create significant cost overruns and delays in the near future, the Government Accountability Office concludes in a new report.

The environment, initiated by Customs and Border Protection in 2001, is an update of cargo processing technology that is being rolled out in increments to 300 ports. It is to be fully deployed by 2011. IBM Corp. won the ACE contract in April 2001.

An expenditure plan in February 2007 meets, or partially meets, six legislative conditions for the program set by Congress in terms of complying with various acquisition rules and practices and undergoing various reviews. Since 2003, Customs and Border Protection has implemented eight recommendations from the GAO to improve management of the environment, and partially implemented seven more.

Nonetheless, because some requirements have been redefined, and because some commercial products have been replaced, the GAO predicted cost overruns and delays ahead. Furthermore, the environment still falls short in complying with the department's enterprise architecture and information security guidelines.

Finally, the automated database that is being used to manage risk for the environment does not have complete information, and therefore is unable to perform its function, the GAO said.

"As a result, GAO sees major program schedule delays and cost overruns on the horizon," the report states.

Human capital management, requirements management and risk management continue to be challenges, the GAO said, and information security and enterprise architecture continue to need attention.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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