USCIS' IT modernization moves ahead

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has awarded IBM a contract worth as much as $491.1 million over five years to establish a centralized electronic environment for processing applications and determining immigration benefits.

The contract is part of USCIS’ ongoing effort to transform business processes and reduce turnaround times. The initial indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract award is worth $14.5 million for an initial 90-day period, according to IBM.

USCIS’ current process for determining immigration benefits is paper-intensive, and the agency has been criticized for the backlog of requests that has resulted from an increase in applications. USCIS is working to transform the process.

That effort will cost up to $536 million, with fee revenues paying for most of it, Government Accountability Office officials said in a letter dated July 17, 2007. GAO and the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department, which includes USCIS, have stressed the importance of USCIS’ information technology transformation. Other parts of the overall transformation include hiring more employees and building new facilities.

In a press release issued today, USCIS officials said they processed 1.17 million naturalization applications in fiscal 2008 — an increase of more than 422,000 over fiscal 2007 numbers. Officials said they processed those applications in an average of nine to 10 months — down from 16 to 18 months after a surge of applications late in fiscal 2007. The agency said it will reduce processing times to five months by the end of fiscal 2009.

Under the contract award, IBM will work with USCIS to deploy a number of new technologies with the goal of improving the efficiency and accuracy of the adjudication process.

David Lipstein, public-sector solutions executive at IBM Global Business Services, said that in the course of the five-year contract, immigration-related application processes will be moved online. He said the new electronic processing environment will include data-analysis tools to help authorities improve their ability to detect risks and fraud.

IBM said in a press release that the team of vendors it will work with includes Blackstone Technology Group, Deloitte Consulting, EDS, Evolver, the Legacy Network, Sandler and Travis Trade Advisory Services, Sapient, SI International, Unisys, and Visionary Integration Professionals.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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