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The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, a major component of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration ITA, collects, analyzes, and distributes commercial information to the U.S. business community and government trade policymakers to help U.S. firms establish themselves in the export marketplace. US&FCS' Commercial Information Management System (CIMS) is ITA'S third attempt to develop a comprehensive, automated trade information data base. This report summarizes the status of that system's development and instrumentation.
The GAO found that: (1) all district offices and 21 overseas posts currently have some operational CIMS capability; (2) US&FCS planned to install CIMS in all remaining posts by the end of 1989; (3) although all posts had the necessary hardware, numerous technical, coordination, and scheduling problems limited routine, daily CIMS use as part of US&FCS promotion efforts; (4) trade specialists characterized CIMS as slow, cumbersome, and time-consuming; (5) database quality concerns included questionable accuracy of client files, limited market research, and outdated reports; (6) database development varied among offices, which used different development criteria or lacked sufficient staff to maintain files; (7) CIMS currently includes only client and market research files, although there are plans for an events file; (8) funding limitations and uncertainties restricted CIMS development; (9) uncertainty continues over CIMS viability and the Department of Commerce's commitment to it; and (10) CIMS implementation problems could significantly affect the development of the legislatively mandated Export Promotion Data System of the National Trade Data Bank.