Ryan Harris and I just attended the ACE Software Developer Sessions in Baltimore. The trip was very worthwhile as we picked up lots of information and were able to participate in discussions that will probably lead to some ACE design changes.
First the big news. ACE is currently scheduled to be complete by December 2015 and will become mandatory in December 2016. Now everybody there believes that this schedule will slip as some of the later projects (such as reconciliation) have not been thought about yet and were plopped into a placeholder labeled "Other Entry Types".
CBP has switched to an agile development process for ACE development which brings a lot of applause. They currently have 4 development teams each of which consists of 2 subject matter experts, 4 - 5 developers and 1 - 2 testers. The plan on expanding to 12 teams. Development is being undertaken in two week "Sprints" with defined goals and with the objective of having working code at the end of each sprint . Six sprints make up one "Increment" after which time code could be deployed. Normally releases will be made after two increments so we are looking a typical deployment cycle of three months between releases.
With this schedule in hand we will be changing our planned release schedule. We plan to release our ACE Update in October which coincides with the next major update from CBP. Xtheta will support all of the new features on XCB with the probable exception of Simplified Entry (Limited Cargo Release).
The XCB system will offer the following features for this release:
- ACE Entry Summary for entry types 01, 03 & 11 with entry versioning. Once a entry had been paid to CBP the data will be archived and retained in an protected format.
- Census Error Overrides via electronic transmission rather than paper.
- New PGA (Partner Government Agency) integration for EPA and FSIS. The existing OGA interfaces will be unchanged. Lacey is still up in the air.
- Post Entry Summary Correction provides a complete electronic environment for processing post entry revisions to ACE Entries.
- DIS (Document Imaging System) integration. Any paper document requested by CBP may be scanned into XCB imaging and sent to the requestor (CBP or PGA) electronically.
- AES changes to map to a new ACE AES application with licensing changes and full integration with DIS.
So why is Simplified Entry (AKA cargo release) a problem? It is actually a very simple application and looks very similar to ISF. The problem with it is that the Pilot program launched for Air has severe limitations and the pilot participants' feedback was less than positive. The concept is good but in practice there are some headaches; the pilot does not support any OGA data even if disclaimed. Split shipments are not supported and flight changes force you to cancel and resubmit the filing One of the projects on the timeline is to allow electronic cancellation and correction of the filings. Once that module is in place the Simplified Entry becomes a viable option. However, it will still not be available for Ocean/Rail shipments until the next ACE Release (ETA Jan 2014) and truck shipments will not be supported until an even later release (ETA Apr 2014).
A disturbing note for our many border brokers is that Border Cargo Release has not been targeted until January 2015 and will need some significant redesign from the other modes.
Bear in mind all of the later deployment dates are very much estimates but our fall deployment is pretty solid.
We are taking steps internally to build a discrete ACE test environment and we will develop end user documentation on how to use ACE as well as training manuals. Significant effort will be needed to bring our support staff up to speed on ACE. Please be patient as this may impact support levels on the existing product.
As we have mentioned before ACE will only be available for XCB users. We recommend that you start the XCB upgrade process well in advance so that you are prepared for ACE in the fall. You should also be ready for a learning curve on the new programs. Please contact us to work out the upgrade costs as they are based on your current usage. If you have no interest in ACE you can proceed as normal for another 3 years before it is mandatory. You should consider the other advantages of XCB outside of the ACE decision.
Have a great summer!