On February 27, 2018, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a press release stating that it reached a “historic milestone on Feb. 24 deploying the last of the major scheduled core trade processing capabilities in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). ACE streamlines the import/export process into a “single window” that allows businesses to electronically transmit the data required by the U.S. Government to import or export cargo.” ACE has automated 269 forms across CBP and more than 47 partner government agencies. More than 5.3 million lines of code were developed in order to automate all phases of cargo processing—pre-arrival, arrival, post release, exports, and partner government agency (PGA) integration—into ACE. The final deployment included post release capabilities for liquidation, reconciliation and drawback processes. The press release states:
“This deployment of ACE is a significant achievement for CBP, the trade community and PGAs who have worked tirelessly to implement the “single window” for over 15 years. It has been one of the most complex IT projects the federal government has ever undertaken and required strong partnerships and collaboration across government and industry,” said Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “While it has been a long road from planning to implementation, a streamlined import and export processing system has already proven to be a tremendous benefit for international trade with an estimated $28 million in processing efficiencies for CBP and an estimated $52 million savings for industry in FY2017.”
ACE provides for a transition away from paper-based procedures to faster, more streamlined processes for both government and industry. Built on a modernized platform, ACE expedites transaction processing by automating 269 forms across CBP and more than 47 PGAs. It has resulted in a 44 percent reduction in wait times for truck processing at land ports of entry and 68 times faster processing of bonds. “The completion of core trade processing in ACE marks a monumental milestone for CBP, the culmination of many years of dedicated partnership and innovation from government employees and the trade community,” said Executive Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade Brenda Smith. “Through ACE, federal agencies have earlier, automated visibility to shipment data, expediting their import or export assessments at the border and speeding the flow of legitimate trade while also improving the security, health and safety of cargo.”
CBP’s investments in automation and capability acquisition, like ACE, led to an estimated 1.42 percent reduction in the cost of importing goods into the United States in FY2016. The total economic benefit of this reduction is estimated to be $6.5 billion.
ACE facilitates legitimate trade and strengthens border security by providing government officials and the trade community with improved automated tools and information. This is significant in light of CBP’s recently released trade statistics. In FY2017, CBP processed more than $2.4 trillion in imports, almost $1.7 trillion in exports, and collected approximately $40.7 billion in duties, taxes, and fees.
A key component of this last deployment is the updated approach to drawback authorized by the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA) (Pub. L. 114-125). By liberalizing and automating drawback operations, the number of drawback claims filed with CBP and the amount of duty, taxes and fees correspondingly refunded is expected to increase in the coming years.
Looking ahead, CBP will focus on sustaining all deployed ACE capabilities and ensuring ACE operates as a highly available, reliable system. There is an ongoing demand for additional and enhanced ACE capabilities, and CBP will continue to collaborate with CBP, the trade community, PGAs and stakeholders to implement automated solutions that advance secure shipments, streamline trade processes and support strong enforcement of trade laws.