GAO: DHS still behind on US-VISIT program

Despite making some progress, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program still faces considerable technology and management problems, according to an official of the Government Accountability Office.

Richard Stana, GAO’s director of homeland security and justice issues, told the House Homeland Security Committee March 20 that fundamental questions persist about the program’s direction, how US-VISIT fits into the larger context of other homeland security programs and what the ultimate return on investment will be.

Also, he said, the program is overdue in establishing a way to ensure it is going after the right US-VISIT solution, and the program is managing it in the right way.

“The longer the program proceeds without these, the greater the risk that the program will not optimally support mission operations and will fall short of commitments,” Stana said.

On the positive side, he noted, a US-VISIT biometric entry screening capability is now operating at 115 airports, 14 seaports and 154 land points of entry.

However, Stana said, management controls are insufficient to identify and evaluate computer and other operational problems at land points of entry. The controls in place were inconsistently administered, he added.

Also, although US-VISIT has conducted various exit demonstration projects, there is no operational biometric exit capability.

As required by law, the Homeland Security Department should have reported to Congress by June 2005 on how it intended to implement a comprehensive, biometric entry/exit program, but DHS still hasn’t done so, Stana said.

DHS needs to establish critical acquisition management processes so that US-VISIT meets its goals on time and within budget, he said, and that requires effective project planning, requirements management and financial management.

Despite several years of detailed criticism, Stana told the committee  that DHS has yet to adequately tackle these issues, and until it does, “the risk of US-VISIT continuing to fall short of expectations is increased.”

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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