Nearly eight years after the Customs Modernization Act gave the U.S. Customs Service authority to automate its operations, Congress has finally granted the money to make it happen.

The result should be less congestion at the crowded Detroit-Windsor border crossings and at other important trade gateways.
According to the Detroit News, customs officials and industry representatives say a new computer system is necessary because trade volumes are rising almost daily, while traffic line-ups at the border are getting longer.
The new computer system is called the Automated Commercial Environment, and will cost more than $1.2 billion to build. An additional $160 million a year will be needed to maintain and operate the system. ACE will not be fully operational for four or five years, but the first stage could be ready for use in less than two years.
ACE will allow companies to open accounts with customs that are settled monthly or yearly. No paper would change hands, and each truck will have an electronic transponder that will be scanned automatically as the truck passes through customs stations for automatic billing to the company.
Congress approved $253 million for Customs in an appropriations budget three weeks ago, which will be used to temporarily upgrade the old system and begin contracting out work on the new one, the article said.
About $130 million is being set aside specifically for new forms of automated customs inspections. The remaining money will be used to support the current system.