GAO: US-VISIT management out of whack

The Homeland Security Department’s U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program is top-heavy in management costs but shows a persistent pattern of management shortcomings, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.



The 167-page report reviews progress on U.S.-VISIT, which collects and validates biometric information from incoming visitors to the United States.



The GAO report describes a “longstanding lack of strategic direction and management controls” affecting the U.S.-VISIT program, including a lack of justification for high management costs and a failure to plan and implement exit controls.



U.S.-VISIT program management costs in 2006 constituted 135 percent of planned development costs for new capabilities, GAO said. Similarly, in the fiscal 2007 expenditure plan, U.S.-VISIT officials proposed spending $1.25 on management-related activities for each dollar invested in new development.



“The plan does not explain the reasons for the sizable investment in management-related activities or otherwise justify it on the basis of measurable expected value,” GAO said. “Without disclosing and justifying its proposed investment and program management-related efforts, it is unclear that such a large amount of funding for these activities represents the best use of resources.”



The report also criticizes U.S.-VISIT for not implementing an exit control program, despite requests from Congress to do so. To date, DHS has produced only a partial plan for an exit solution at airports, and no plans for exit control at land and sea border ports, GAO said. “Lack of a well-defined and justified exit solution introduces the risk of repeating failed and costly past exit efforts,” the report said.



The report said U.S.-VISIT has not fulfilled completely GAO’s previous recommendations, including advice to close gaps in information technology security controls and to implement management controls.



On the upside, DHS’ U.S.-VISIT prime contract is meeting cost and schedule benchmarks, the GAO said. Nonetheless, GAO said the most recent expenditure plan for U.S.-VISIT "did not provide a sufficient basis for effective program oversight and accountability.”



DHS officials, in their response, concurred with most of GAO's observations and recommendations.


Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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