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United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

December 20, 2007: 

The Honorable Loretta Sanchez: 
Chairwoman: 
Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism: 
Committee on Homeland Security: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable John M. McHugh: 
The Honorable Louise M. Slaughter: 
House of Representatives: 

Subject: Observations on Implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel 
Initiative: 

Securing the nation's borders has taken on added importance since the 
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. For years, millions of 
citizens of the United States, Canada, and Bermuda could enter the 
United States from certain parts of the Western Hemisphere using a wide 
variety of documents, including a driver's license issued by a state 
motor vehicle administration or a birth certificate, or in some cases 
for U.S. and Canadian citizens, without showing any documents. In the 
heightened national security environment following September 11, we 
have previously reported that documents like driver's licenses and 
birth certificates can easily be obtained, altered, or counterfeited 
and used by terrorists to travel into and out of the country.[Footnote 
1] To help provide better assurance that border officials have the 
tools and resources to establish that people are who they say they are, 
as called for in the 9/11 Commission report,[Footnote 2] section 7209 
of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, as 
amended, requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation 
with the Secretary of State, to develop and implement a plan that 
requires a passport or other document or combination of documents that 
the Secretary of Homeland Security deems sufficient to show identity 
and citizenship for U.S. citizens and citizens of Bermuda, Canada, and 
Mexico when entering the United States from certain countries in North, 
Central, or South America.[Footnote 3] 

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) and the Department of 
State's (State) effort to specify acceptable documents and implement 
document requirements at 326 air, land, and sea ports of entry is 
called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).[Footnote 4] On 
January 23, 2007, DHS implemented WHTI document requirements at air 
ports of entry.[Footnote 5] DHS is required by law to implement WHTI 
document requirements at the land and sea ports of entry on the earlier 
of two dates: June 1, 2009, or 3 months after DHS and State certify 
that certain implementation requirements have been met.[Footnote 6] 
Some members of Congress have expressed concerns about whether DHS 
would be prepared to implement WHTI document requirements before June 
1, 2009, in a manner that does not disrupt cross-border travel even if 
the agencies made the required certifications. The consolidated 
appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008--which includes the DHS 
appropriation--contains language to prevent WHTI document requirements 
from being implemented before June 1, 2009.[Footnote 7] As of December 
19, 2007, the consolidated appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008 had 
been passed by Congress but not signed by the President. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component within DHS, is 
the lead agency in charge of inspecting travelers seeking to enter the 
United States at air, land, and sea ports of entry. CBP has created a 
WHTI program office within CBP's Office of Field Operations to manage 
efforts to propose acceptable documents, implement document 
requirements, and oversee technological upgrades. In fiscal year 2008, 
DHS requested about $252 million for WHTI implementation, including 
approximately $166 million for related technological upgrades--to 
develop new software and to deploy that software and new hardware at 13 
of the highest-volume U.S. land ports of entry. According to DHS, 
implementation of the WHTI document requirements and related 
technological upgrades will support its strategic goal of facilitating 
legitimate trade and travel while enforcing all U.S. trade, 
immigration, drug, consumer protection, intellectual property, and 
agricultural laws and regulations at the borders. According to DHS, the 
technological upgrades are designed to improve customer service by 
avoiding a more time-intensive and intrusive inspection process that 
would result from meeting WHTI document requirements without this 
technology. 

In May 2006, we reported our observations on steps taken and challenges 
faced by DHS and State in implementing WHTI in five main areas: (1) 
proceeding through the rule-making process, (2) making a decision about 
what documents individuals will need when they enter the United States, 
(3) carrying out a cost-benefit study, (4) resolving technical and 
programmatic issues, and (5) managing implementation of the 
program.[Footnote 8] This letter provides updated information in those 
five areas. 

To address these five objectives, we reviewed documents related to 
implementing the WHTI document requirements at air, land, and sea ports 
of entry, as well as related plans for technological upgrades in 
vehicle lanes at the land ports of entry. These documents included the 
final rule making for WHTI documents at air ports of entry, the notice 
of proposed rule making for WHTI documents at land and sea ports of 
entry, the notice of proposed rule making for the passport card, the 
regulatory assessment for the land and sea notice of proposed rule 
making, and the draft programmatic environmental assessment for the 
land and sea notice of proposed rule making. We considered information 
presented in the programmatic environmental assessment related to 
projected effects of WHTI document requirements and related 
technologies on wait times at the border, but we did not evaluate the 
methods used to derive those projections. In addition, we examined 
memoranda of agreement and the corresponding business plans between DHS 
and Washington and Vermont--two states developing enhanced driver's 
licenses that are expected to be acceptable under WHTI. We also 
analyzed the public comments submitted by organizations in response to 
DHS's and State's land and sea notice of proposed rule making and DHS's 
regulatory assessment to identify specific concerns, such as possible 
economic effects of the rule and the timeline for document 
requirements, that stakeholders submitted for DHS and State to consider 
when drafting a final rule. We did not assess the comments for merit, 
nor did we evaluate the methods or data any of the commenters used to 
draw conclusions. During our review, we interviewed DHS officials, 
including those from the WHTI program office, the Screening 
Coordination Office, and the CBP Office of Information and Technology. 
We also interviewed officials from State's Bureau of Consular Affairs. 
We asked these DHS and State officials about current requirements for 
crossing the border, how those requirements may change under WHTI, the 
status of the rule-making process for WHTI land and sea and the 
passport card, the impact of WHTI on existing border-crossing programs, 
and other WHTI implementation issues such as CBP staffing, training, 
communication, and funding needs. We also visited land ports of entry 
and/or interviewed CBP officers and supervisors in the field at the 
land ports of Alexandria Bay, New York; Buffalo, New York; Fort 
Covington, New York; Ogdensburg, New York; Blaine, Washington; Laredo, 
Texas; San Ysidro, California; Otay Mesa, California; and Calexico, 
California. We asked these officials about the current procedures for 
crossing the border, technology that is currently in place at these 
ports of entry, plans DHS has to install new technology at these ports 
of entry, effects that are anticipated from changing current inspection 
procedures and implementing the new documentary requirements, the 
strategy for communicating the new requirements to the public, and any 
unique operational challenges of these ports of entry that may be 
affected by WHTI. At the ports of entry we visited, we observed the 
inspection areas, as well as other port facilities, in order to 
understand how the changes expected under WHTI may affect the current 
operational procedures at these ports of entry. We chose these ports of 
entry, based on geographic location and size of the port, to provide 
examples of the operational environment of CBP officers. Because we 
selected a nonprobability sample of ports to visit, we cannot 
generalize our work from these ports of entry to all land ports of 
entry. 

Whereas we focused our 2006 review on the U.S.-Canadian land border, we 
expanded our scope in this work review to include the U.S.-Mexican land 
border. We also considered WHTI implementation at air and sea ports of 
entry, but placed a particular emphasis on the land environment, 
because, according to DHS data, about three-quarters of all travelers 
enter the United States through the nation's 163 land ports of entry, 
and because volume and infrastructure concerns likely will present more 
complex implementation challenges at the land ports. Our work was 
conducted from May 2007 through November 2007 in accordance with 
generally accepted government auditing standards. 

Results in Brief: 

Since May 2006, DHS and State have taken important actions toward 
implementing WHTI document requirements. We reported in May 2006 that 
DHS and State had not made decisions about what documents would be 
acceptable, had not begun the rule-making process to finalize those 
decisions, and were in the early stages of studying costs and benefits. 
In addition, DHS and State needed to choose a technology to use with 
the new passport card--which State is developing specifically for WHTI. 
DHS also faced an array of implementation challenges, including 
training staff and informing the public. Since our 2006 work, DHS and 
State have taken the following actions in the five main areas: 

* Proceeding through the Rule-Making Process. DHS and State finalized 
the rule-making process for document requirements at air ports of 
entry. The agencies also published a notice of proposed rule making for 
document requirements at land and sea ports of entry and anticipate 
finalizing the requirements in late fall 2007. 

* Deciding on Acceptable Documents. 
By publishing a final rule for document requirements at air ports of 
entry, DHS and State have established acceptable documents for air 
travelers. The notice of proposed rule making for land and sea proposes 
acceptable documents. DHS plans to implement document requirements at 
land and sea ports of entry as early as summer 2008. 

* Performing a Cost-Benefit Study. 
DHS has performed a cost-benefit study as required by the rule-making 
process. Data limitations prevented DHS from quantifying the precise 
effect that WHTI will have on wait times--a substantial source of 
uncertainty in its analysis. DHS plans to do baseline studies at 
selected ports before WHTI implementation so that it can compare the 
effects of WHTI document requirements on wait times after the 
requirements are implemented. 

* Resolving Technical and Programmatic Issues. DHS and State have 
selected technology to be used with the passport card. To support the 
card and other documents that use the same technology, DHS is planning 
technological upgrades at land ports of entry. These upgrades are 
intended to help reduce traveler wait times and more effectively verify 
identity and citizenship. DHS has outlined a general strategy for the 
upgrades at the 39 highest volume land ports, beginning in January 2008 
and continuing over roughly the next 2 years. 

* Managing Implementation. 
DHS has developed general strategies for implementing WHTI--including 
staffing and training. According to DHS officials, they also plan to 
work with a contractor on a public relations campaign to communicate 
clear and timely information about document requirements. In addition, 
State has approved contracting with a public relations firm to assist 
with educating the public, particularly border resident communities 
about the new passport card and the requirements of WHTI in general. 

As DHS moves toward calendar year 2008, it faces challenges deploying 
technology and staffing and training officers to use it. In the absence 
of a fiscal year 2008 appropriation, funding for the contract has been 
uncertain. According to DHS officials, they are exploring options for 
funding a contract award, using available funds, if an appropriation is 
not immediately forthcoming.[Footnote 9] However, DHS has not yet 
determined when and to what extent funds will be available. As of 
December 2007, lacking certainty about how it will fund the contract 
award and when it will publish the final rule, DHS could not provide a 
specific date by which it will select a contractor and begin devising 
specific milestones and deadlines for the testing and deployment of new 
hardware. Although DHS has devised a strategy for training officers to 
use the new technology, part of its delivery is tied to the yet 
undetermined milestones for hardware deployment. In addition to 
specific deadlines and milestones for testing and deploying hardware, 
DHS intends to have the contractor determine the plan and procedures 
for testing the technology and a separate contractor to devise specific 
goals, objectives, and schedules for conducting a public outreach 
campaign. Therefore, these plan details will not be in place until DHS 
makes contract awards and the contractors selected prepare the plans. 

DHS generally agreed with our observations and said that WHTI is a 
major implementation effort that has continued to evolve and progress, 
even as we conducted our review. DHS noted that some aspects of WHTI 
implementation plans cannot be finalized until it has issued the final 
rule for WHTI land and sea document requirements. DHS officials said 
that the department is taking all appropriate actions within its legal 
authority to fully implement WHTI as soon as feasible, given the 
security imperative driving the initiative. DHS stated that it has 
drafted specific plans that are ready to be implemented when the final 
rule for land and sea document requirements has been published. We 
acknowledge that DHS has taken a number of actions to prepare for 
testing and deploying technologies and managing the implementation of 
other WHTI activities. However, as key elements of planning for program 
management and execution remain uncertain, we continue to believe that 
DHS faces challenges deploying technology, and staffing and training 
officers to use it. 

Background: 

The Immigration and Nationality Act,[Footnote 10] its implementing 
regulations,[Footnote 11] and CBP policies and procedures for traveler 
inspection at all ports of entry require officers to establish, at a 
minimum, the nationality of individuals and whether they are eligible 
to enter the country. All travelers attempting to enter the country 
through ports of entry undergo primary inspection, which is a 
preliminary screening procedure to identify those legitimate travelers 
who can readily be identified as admissible. At land ports of entry, 
the primary inspection process in vehicle lanes begins with screening 
the vehicle and automatically capturing the license plate information 
of a vehicle using a license plate reader (where installed). License 
plate readers automatically read front and rear license plates of 
vehicles as they enter the primary inspection area, with the data 
simultaneously queried--that is, checked against CBP and law 
enforcement databases. Officers are to examine travelers' documentation 
of citizenship, such as passports, or in some cases for U.S. or 
Canadian citizens, officers may accept an oral declaration of 
citizenship if they are satisfied that the traveler is a U.S. or 
Canadian citizen. Visitors arriving as pedestrians enter an equivalent 
primary inspection area, generally inside a CBP building. Persons whose 
admissibility cannot be readily determined, persons selected as part of 
a random selection process, or persons suspected of violations of 
customs, agriculture, or other laws are subjected to a more detailed 
review called a secondary inspection in a different area of the port. 

The current document requirements for travelers entering the United 
States by sea or land generally depend on the nationality of the 
traveler and whether or not the traveler is entering the United States 
from certain countries within the Western Hemisphere.[Footnote 12] 
Currently, U.S. citizens arriving at land or sea ports of entry from 
these Western Hemisphere countries can present a wide variety of 
documents to border officials to establish their right to enter the 
United States. In addition, in some cases, border officials may admit 
U.S. citizens with no documentation at all--if the official is 
satisfied by the traveler's oral declaration of citizenship. In most 
cases, Canadian citizens and citizens of the British Overseas Territory 
of Bermuda are also not currently required to present a passport and 
visa when entering the United States as nonimmigrant visitors by sea or 
land from certain parts of the Western Hemisphere,[Footnote 13] but 
must satisfy border officials of their identity, citizenship, and 
admissibility and present any proof of citizenship in their 
possession.[Footnote 14] Under these conditions, CBP officers at the 
ports of entry must assess the validity of thousands of documents that 
differ in appearance, information, and security features. For example, 
CBP officials at one port of entry we visited noted that there are 16 
variations of the Florida driver's license currently in use. According 
to DHS and State, the wide range of documents that can be presented 
creates the danger that non-U.S. citizens could fraudulently present 
themselves as U.S. citizens. 

Balancing border security with the facilitation of free movement of 
admissible people and legitimate goods is a challenge, particularly on 
the land border, which presents complex operational challenges. One 
reason land borders are more challenging is that CBP officers there 
lack advance traveler manifest information from commercial carriers, 
like the information they have at air and sea ports, to prescreen 
travelers. Another reason is the tremendous amount of traffic that must 
be processed by CBP officers in a short amount of time because the 
majority of people entering the U.S. cross a land border. For example, 
in fiscal year 2005 over 319 million border crossings by travelers were 
processed at official ports of entry located along about 7,500 miles of 
land border. During the primary inspection process, most travelers at 
the land border physically hand over documentation such as a driver's 
license and birth certificate, or a passport, to prove their identity 
and citizenship. The CBP officer may check the information contained in 
the documents against CBP and law enforcement databases and watch lists 
to determine whether any derogatory information exists. To the extent 
possible, officers are required to query law enforcement databases for 
all travelers in a vehicle. When an individual presents a driver's 
license for inspection, if the CBP officer queries the document, the 
information on the license must be hand-typed into the computer, 
because it cannot be machine read at CBP primary inspection stations. 
According to one DHS study, under the current conditions the total 
median time for the primary inspection process is approximately 45 
seconds.[Footnote 15] However, wait times at the border can be 
influenced by a variety of factors that are associated with, but not 
directly related to, document requirements. For example, the physical 
layout of the ports, the volume and type of traffic that typically 
crosses the border at a given port, and the frequency with which CBP 
officers query documents against law enforcement databases maintained 
by CBP and other law enforcement agencies are all factors that can 
influence wait times. 

The streamlined travel documentation requirements of WHTI are intended 
to enhance security at the nation's ports of entry while facilitating 
legitimate trade and travel. However, streamlining and implementing new 
document requirements for citizens of the United States, Canada, 
Mexico, and Bermuda is one initiative in DHS's multiple activities 
designed to enhance border security at and between official ports of 
entry. Since DHS began operations in 2003, we have issued more than 65 
reports and testimonies about multiple efforts to secure the U.S. 
border. These activities are interdependent in that successfully 
enhancing security in one area may lead people who intend to unlawfully 
enter the United States to attempt exploitation of other avenues of 
unlawful entry. The security enhancement potential from WHTI-related 
activities discussed in this letter applies solely to the official 
ports of entry--primarily in the vehicle lanes for primary inspection 
at land borders. Among reviews related to border security, we have 
ongoing work examining CBP's Secure Border Initiative, we recently 
released a report about CBP's traveler inspections[Footnote 16] and 
have recently testified about vulnerabilities along the border at 
unmanned and unmonitored locations.[Footnote 17] 

Proceeding through the Rule-Making Process: 

In May 2006, we reported that DHS and State were to publish three rules 
in the Federal Register--(1) for WHTI air and sea document 
requirements, (2) for WHTI land document requirements, and (3) for 
implementing a new passport card to be issued by State. At the time of 
our May 2006 report DHS and State had not entered the first phase of 
rule making for any these three areas. (See appendix I for a general 
overview of the rule-making process.) 

Since our May 2006 report, DHS and State published a final rule 
announcing the document requirements, with limited exceptions, for air 
ports of entry on November 24, 2006, and implemented them in January 
2007. Under the final rule, U.S. citizens and nonimmigrant citizens of 
Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda traveling by air between the United States 
and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and 
Bermuda are required to present a valid passport or other WHTI- 
compliant documentation, as specified in the final rule, to enter, or 
depart from, the United States. Whereas DHS and State originally 
intended to combine document requirements for air and sea ports of 
entry, they decided to instead combine document requirements for sea 
ports of entry with the requirements for land ports of entry. DHS and 
State did so because they had recently proposed allowing the new 
passport card to be used at seaports and needed to delay implementation 
until the card would be available for use there, and because recent 
legislation had required them to certify to Congress that they would be 
implementing the new requirements at sea and land ports at the same 
time. 

With regard to travel via land and sea ports of entry, on June 26, 
2007, DHS and State published a notice of proposed rule making to 
propose WHTI land and sea document requirements and to seek public 
comments on the requirements in advance of issuing a final rule. In the 
notice of proposed rule making, DHS outlined proposed WHTI document 
requirements for U.S. citizens and nonimmigrant aliens, operational and 
security considerations at the border, and special rules for specific 
groups of travelers (such as children under 16). 

During the public comment period on the proposed land and sea rule, DHS 
and State received 600 submissions from the public, which, according to 
DHS, included over 1,350 separate comments. According to the Director 
of the WHTI program office, that office has completed a draft of its 
response to the comments, which, as of November 2007, was being 
reviewed at DHS. We analyzed the 600 stakeholder submissions and found 
that 323 were from stakeholders who identified themselves with various 
organizations and 277 were from individual stakeholders who were not 
affiliated with organizations. These stakeholders commented on issues 
such as concerns about the implementation timeline, support for the 
passport card and enhanced driver's licenses, support for WHTI 
alternative processes for select populations--such as children under 16 
and children traveling in organized groups--and support for the 
continued use of trusted traveler programs to cross the border. DHS and 
State officials have not provided a specific date when they will 
publish the final rule for WHTI land and sea document requirements, but 
DHS officials have stated that they expect the final rule to be issued 
in late fall 2007. DHS has announced its intention to implement the 
WHTI document requirements at land and sea ports in summer 2008. The 
exact implementation date is to be established in the final rule or in 
a separate notice in the Federal Register. 

With regard to the passport card, State published a notice of proposed 
rule making in the Federal Register in October 2006 and sent a draft 
final rule to be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget in 
October 2007. The notice describes the issuance process and proposed 
use of the passport card, which would be an alternative form of a 
passport used only by U.S. citizens to demonstrate citizenship and 
identity when crossing U.S. land borders and when traveling by sea 
between the United States and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or 
Bermuda. State has proposed to issue the passport card for less than 
one half the cost of a traditional passport book and expects to begin 
issuing the cards to the public in spring 2008. 

Making Decisions about Document Requirements: 

In May 2006, we reported that to implement WHTI document requirements, 
DHS and State needed to decide what alternative documents, if any, will 
be acceptable in lieu of a passport. DHS and State finalized these 
document decisions for air ports of entry by publishing the final WHTI 
air rule. The rule established that United States citizens and 
nonimmigrant aliens from Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico entering the 
United States at air ports of entry would generally be required to 
present a valid passport.[Footnote 18] 

WHTI land and sea document requirements will be finalized when DHS and 
State publish a final rule in the Federal Register for this purpose. 
According to the notice of proposed rule making for land and sea, U.S. 
citizens age 16 years and older would be required to present a 
traditional passport, the new passport card, or a trusted traveler 
document.[Footnote 19] Under the proposed rule, Canadian citizens and 
citizens of Bermuda arriving by land or sea would be required to show a 
passport, and Canadian citizens would also be able to show valid 
trusted traveler cards. There are limited circumstances in which 
travelers would not have to show one of these documents. For example, 
U.S. and Canadian citizens age 15 years and younger and U.S. and 
Canadian citizens ages 16 to 19 who are traveling with parental 
permission with their school or other organized group would be allowed 
to present a birth certificate, or, in the case of U.S. citizens, other 
evidence of citizenship.[Footnote 20] The proposed rule would not 
change the documentation requirements for most Mexican nationals, who 
are generally required to present a passport and visa or a Border 
Crossing Card when attempting to enter the United States.[Footnote 21] 

In describing how DHS intends to implement land and sea document 
requirements, the notice of proposed rule making also announced DHS's 
intention to discontinue allowing travelers entering the U.S. by land 
or sea and claiming to be U.S. or Canadian citizens, to prove their 
citizenship using only an oral declaration--that is, without showing 
travel documents--on January 31, 2008. After DHS ends oral declaration 
and until the WHTI document requirements are fully implemented, all 
U.S. and Canadian citizens would be required to show one of the 
documents described in the proposed rule or a government-issued photo 
identification, such as a driver's license, and proof of citizenship 
such as a birth certificate. According to CBP officials at the ports of 
entry we visited, they do not expect the end of oral declaration to 
represent a significant operational change for them, because the 
majority of people crossing at their ports already present documents 
rather than attempt entry by oral declaration alone. 

The land and sea proposed rule also provides for future consideration 
of alternative documents issued by states, tribes, bands, provinces, 
territories, or foreign governments if developed in accordance with 
agreements between those entities and DHS. The notice of proposed rule 
making specifically includes, as an example of these, a pilot program 
in which DHS has entered into an agreement with the State of Washington 
to develop an enhanced driver's license. This license would be 
available to U.S. citizens who are also residents of Washington through 
its Department of Licensing and would be accepted at any land border 
crossing. Similar agreements have been signed by DHS with Arizona, 
Vermont, and New York. According to CBP officials, DHS is in 
discussions about forming enhanced driver's license programs with other 
states, including Michigan and Texas. Enhanced driver's licenses issued 
by these states are to denote citizenship and work with the 
technologies that CBP uses to electronically verify other WHTI 
documents. For each state that decides to pursue development of an 
enhanced driver's license, DHS stated that it plans to specifically and 
individually evaluate the states' processes for issuing driver's 
licenses to approve them for WHTI purposes. For example, according to 
the director of the WHTI office, in order for a state to produce an 
enhanced driver's license, DHS requires that the license be produced at 
one centralized facility, which helps ensure the security of the card. 
Moreover, the director said that DHS requires controls to enhance 
security around the issuance process such as requiring employees who 
can issue enhanced driver's licenses to be U.S. citizens, to pass a 
background check, and to receive document fraud and interviewing 
technique training. 

WHTI is intended to simplify and facilitate the job of CBP officers at 
ports of entry by reducing the large number of documents that are 
currently presented and by making them easier to verify, thereby 
providing more reliable evidence of identity and citizenship to enhance 
security. Adding documents for programs like the enhanced driver's 
license after the publication of the final rule would expand this 
number again. CPB officials told us they are not concerned about the 
effect of adding enhanced driver's licenses to the set of documents 
acceptable for WHTI, because no matter how many states and Canadian 
provinces decide to develop them, there would still be many fewer 
documents under WHTI than the thousands that are currently in use. More 
important, they say, is that DHS plans to deem documents sufficient to 
establish identity and citizenship only when they have (1) minimum 
physical security features to help officers to verify the documents by 
physical inspection and (2) features that work in concert with 
technological upgrades they are designing to improve officers' ability 
to electronically verify the information from the document. 

Carrying Out a Cost-Benefit Study: 

In May 2006, we reported that decisions about documentation for 
crossing the border may need to be preceded by a comprehensive and 
publicly disclosed cost-benefit study, because the economic impact of 
WHTI may be $100 million or more in any single year. We noted that at 
that time DHS was in the early stages of studying costs and benefits, 
but much more work would be needed. 

In accordance with the federal requirements, DHS submitted for Office 
of Management and Budget review and for public comment, regulatory 
assessments along with the proposed WHTI rules for air and for land and 
sea. These regulatory assessments present the costs and benefits of the 
proposed documentary requirements for U.S. citizens, along with the 
costs and benefits of several alternatives considered during the rule- 
making process. 

In laying out its analyses in the regulatory assessment for the land 
environment, DHS acknowledged that its estimates are subject to 
substantial uncertainty. Among other things contributing to uncertainty 
was DHS's inability to quantify the effects of proposed document 
alternatives on the time travelers have to wait in lines at the border 
for a primary inspection. Uncertainty arises because, for example, 
longer wait times at the border represent an increase in the cost of 
travel, which may lead people to make fewer trips. Conversely, shorter 
wait times represent a decrease in the cost of travel, which may lead 
people to make more trips. The regulatory assessment described data 
limitations that prevented DHS from quantifying the effect of wait 
times. For example, the authors of the regulatory assessment noted that 
they had identified data that described traffic crossing the border at 
land ports of entry, but none of these was extensive enough or current 
enough to allow them to estimate traffic volume at individual border 
crossing points. According to DHS, it has designed methods to evaluate 
changes in wait times that result from WHTI and related technological 
upgrades. DHS has begun to collect baseline data for this effort and 
plans to evaluate effects at 10 to15 high-volume ports after full 
implementation of the WHTI document requirements and full deployment of 
related technological upgrades. As of November 2007, DHS had conducted 
baseline studies at ports in Detroit, Michigan; Nogales, Arizona; and 
Blaine, Washington. 

Stakeholders responded to the regulatory assessment by submitting 
comments during the public comment period required for the rule-making 
process. Of the 323 submissions from organizations responding to the 
proposed rule, we identified 13 that specifically cited concerns with 
how the regulatory assessment was conducted. Of these, 12 argued that 
DHS had underestimated the general impact of WHTI on the economies of 
Canada and the United States or on individuals and small business 
owners. For example, 1 of these 12 stakeholders offered alternative 
data from a 2007 study to calculate lost spending resulting from 
Canadians who chose not to cross the U.S. border rather than obtaining 
the required documents. This comment asserted that if these data were 
used, this lost spending estimate would be roughly four times higher 
than the result published in the regulatory assessment. We have not 
evaluated the methods or data employed by this study or the reliability 
of its outcomes. The final regulatory assessment is to be published 
along with the final rule, and DHS is to consider all public comments. 
DHS officials told us that they will not comment on any considerations 
related to their ongoing rule-making process. 

Resolving Technical and Programmatic Issues: 

In May 2006, we reported that if DHS and State were to proceed with 
developing a card form of the U.S. passport specifically for crossing 
land and sea borders, they would still need to make key decisions about 
the card. Specifically, we noted that DHS and State had taken steps to 
identify the passport card as a lower-cost alternative form of a 
passport but had not resolved what type of technology to use to allow 
it to be electronically read. Under consideration were two forms of the 
same technology that would store data on a tag on the passport card. 
The data could then be read and transmitted to the CBP officer using 
wireless communication. One form of this technology would require that 
cards be in close proximity to the device that would read them, and the 
other would allow the cards to be read from a distance of as much as 30 
feet away. 

Since that time, DHS and State have proposed to proceed with the 
passport card using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology 
that would allow cards to be read from as much as 30 feet 
away.[Footnote 22] This technology is a newer version of technology 
already used for CBP's trusted traveler programs. The technology is 
designed to allow information to be transmitted to the CBP officer 
before the vehicle reaches the inspection station. CBP has estimated 
that if all travelers were to present documents with this technology in 
lanes containing the RFID readers, thus reducing the time required to 
query databases and watch lists, inspection times would be lower than 
when travelers present a mix of documents that officers must either 
swipe through a machine reader or hand type the salient information 
into the computer on a keyboard. The State-issued passport card, DHS- 
issued trusted traveler cards, and any enhanced driver's licenses 
developed by states or provinces are expected to use RFID technology. 

Since our May 2006 report, in the course of drafting the proposed rule 
and related studies for the land and sea document requirements, as well 
as making its fiscal year 2008 budget request, DHS has more clearly 
articulated its plans to employ new WHTI document requirements in 
conjunction with upgrades in technology in vehicle lanes at land ports 
of entry. These plans are designed to use technology to help CBP 
balance border security with free movement of admissible people and 
legitimate goods. According to CBP, to reach the full security benefit 
of WHTI, documents must be queried against its databases and validated 
at the ports of entry. Moreover, CBP has noted that in recent years, 
its increased scrutiny of travelers at ports of entry has led to an 
increase in the time travelers spend waiting in lines at the border for 
primary inspections. CBP, therefore, has sought technological solutions 
to enable it to more effectively validate approved WHTI travel 
documents for every traveler while avoiding more time-intensive 
inspection processes at land ports of entry. According to CBP 
officials, these technology upgrades are vital to balancing CBP's 
security and facilitation missions. 

DHS has reported that regardless of the technology used to read the 
documents, there could be some increases in traffic wait times at 
higher-volume ports of entry as officers and travelers adjust to new 
document requirements, particularly on the northern border. By the same 
token, it reported that over time, it expects standardized document 
requirements and technologies that electronically read documents to 
result in decreases in wait times and RFID technology to provide the 
most improvement to traffic flow and wait times. 

Key aspects of CBP's technology upgrade plans include the following: 

* replacing the current primary processing interface--the software that 
manages database queries in the vehicle primary lanes--with a new 
interface that will work with all WHTI-acceptable documents and will 
help officers better validate document information; 

* installing hardware in all vehicle lanes at the highest-volume land 
ports of entry to facilitate use of the RFID technology that is to be 
used to read information on trusted traveler documents, the new 
passport card, and any enhanced driver's licenses currently under 
development; 

* upgrading current license plate readers with new versions that read 
plates more accurately and are to work with the new primary processing 
interface to link travelers to a specific vehicle at the time of 
crossing; and: 

* replacing the current workstation monitors with new monitors that are 
to more efficiently and effectively display the information available 
through the new primary processing interface. 

CBP officials told us that they plan to begin deployment of the new 
primary processing interface (software) in February 2008. To test and 
deploy the new hardware, CBP plans to work with a primary contractor 
and has issued a request for proposal, which, among other things, would 
require this contractor to establish a specific timeline and deployment 
schedule for implementation. As of December 19, 2007, DHS has not yet 
awarded a contract. Although the specific timeline for implementation 
remains uncertain, CBP has developed and articulated a general strategy 
for deploying and implementing the technology upgrades in 469 vehicle 
lanes at the 39 highest-volume ports of entry over approximately the 
next 2 years. In its fiscal year 2008 budget request, DHS requested 
funding to develop, manage, and deploy the technology upgrades at 13 
high-volume ports of entry. First, it plans to install and test the new 
primary processing interface at two land ports of entry in Nogales, 
Arizona, and Blaine, Washington, in February 2008 and test it for at 
least 90 days. Then, CBP expects that the contractor it selects will 
have the new hardware in place and operational at these two ports 
sometime in April 2008. When both hardware and software are in place at 
the two initial ports, CBP plans to test the entire technology package 
for a minimum of 45 days. During this testing, CBP officials say they 
will resolve any technological and human-factors issues that may arise-
-for example, studying how officers interact with the new workstations 
to ensure that the configuration does not slow processing or increase 
injury risk. After testing and evaluation, CBP then plans to implement 
and deploy the technologies--hardware and software together--at 11 more 
high volume ports of entry, in fiscal year 2008. Third, in future 
years, it plans to move the efforts to additional ports, until the 39 
highest-volume ports--representing 95 percent of all land border 
crossings--have the technology upgrades. Finally, over time, CBP plans 
to install the new primary processing interface and upgrade the license 
plate readers at the land ports that are not included in the 39 highest-
volume ports. 

To achieve their full benefit, RFID-enabled documents must be paired 
with RFID readers at the ports of entry. Although RFID readers will not 
be installed at all of the 39 highest-volume ports by DHS's planned 
WHTI implementation that could be as early as summer 2008, there is, 
according to DHS, an alternative technology available in all vehicle 
lanes at land ports of entry that allows documents with a specific kind 
of data strip to be hand swiped through an electronic document reader. 
The passport, passport card, trusted traveler documents, and any 
enhanced driver's licenses currently under development already have or 
are expected to have this kind of data strip.[Footnote 23] (See 
appendix II for a list of the primary documents proposed to be 
acceptable under WHTI and their circumstances of use.) According to 
CBP, in the absence of RFID readers in vehicle lanes, its officers will 
swipe RFID-enabled documents through electronic readers--at smaller 
ports not slated to receive the technology and at ports among the 39 
that have not yet received the upgrades when DHS implements the WHTI 
document requirements. In addition, because the RFID technology in 
traditional U.S. passports is not compatible with the RFID technology 
CBP plans to install at land ports, officers will continue to swipe 
U.S. passports through an electronic reader as the standard method for 
electronically reading them. 

Although CBP has noted that hand swiping documents through electronic 
readers is more efficient than typing information into a computer on a 
keyboard, it has also noted that it takes more time to read documents 
than it would if the planned RFID technology were installed. Moreover, 
CBP has stated that swiping the documents does not provide the benefit 
of information that has been wirelessly transmitted to the officers in 
advance of vehicles approaching the primary inspection booths. CBP says 
this benefit of RFID technology allows officers to be aware of 
derogatory data before encountering travelers and to focus more 
attention on inspecting vehicles. DHS has not determined how many ports 
must have operational RFID technology before implementing the document 
requirements. However, according to CBP officials, the technology is 
important for balancing border security with facilitation of trade and 
travel, and they would like to complete the upgrades at least at the 
first 10 ports before the document requirements are implemented. 

Aside from deploying the technological upgrades, CBP is faced with 
making logistical decisions about how to use the technology and the new 
document requirements within its standard inspection policies and 
procedures. For example, CBP headquarters or each port director will be 
able to decide whether to dedicate specific lanes exclusively for RFID- 
enabled documents, such as passport cards, that can be read before the 
vehicle approaches the primary inspections booth, rather than lanes 
that are dedicated to handling both RFID-enabled cards and other 
documents. At larger ports, port directors have already dedicated lanes 
for people who present trusted traveler documents that currently use 
this kind of technology. Another example of a decision CBP is facing 
concerns how to implement its inspection processes in light of the new 
technological features. For example, for documents that transmit 
information to the officer in advance of the traveler's arrival at the 
inspection booth, CBP is confronted with determining whether it is 
necessary, from a security standpoint, to physically inspect those 
documents or if a visual match between travelers and their onscreen 
images would be sufficient to assess the validity of the documents. 

Managing Program Implementation: 

In May 2006, we reported that even after DHS and State finalize the 
WHTI document requirements, DHS would face challenges implementing the 
program and that failing to overcome these challenges may hinder DHS's 
ability to achieve the goal of improving security while facilitating 
commerce and travel. Our report noted that DHS still had much more work 
remaining in developing (1) an implementation plan, (2) training 
programs for DHS staff, (3) awareness programs for the public, (4) 
bilateral coordination with Canada, and (5) budget estimates to support 
these initiatives. 

Since our May 2006 report, CBP has developed general strategies in each 
of the areas to help manage its implementation of WHTI document 
requirements at land and sea ports of entry. Specifically, as 
previously discussed, DHS's plans for implementing the new document 
requirements at land and sea ports are first to end the use of oral 
declaration on January 31, 2008, and then implement the WHTI document 
requirements at a date established through the rule-making process-- 
currently expected to be as early as the summer of 2008. With regard to 
implementing new technologies, the request for proposal for managing 
the hardware installation requires the contractor to develop specific 
program management and project execution plans that contain milestones 
and deadlines. Given the uncertainty surrounding the timing of and 
funding for this contract award, some details of the implementation 
plan for deployment of the new technologies--particularly the 
deployment timeline--are still unknown. 

The WHTI program office has developed a training strategy to inform CBP 
staff of the new tasks, tools, policies, and procedures that will 
support WHTI. According to the strategy, DHS will make Web-based 
training available to all CBP officers and, based on the implementation 
schedule of new technologies, will begin to offer customized training 
to CBP officers at each port of entry in conjunction with technology 
deployment. 

The WHTI program office also plans to carry out a public information 
campaign about the document requirements, using CBP's public affairs 
office and additional contractor support. CBP has outlined the roles 
and responsibilities of the contractor in a request for proposal and 
expects to make a contract award in January 2008. Among other things, 
the contractor is to provide program management support to the CBP 
public affairs office and develop a communications strategic plan. This 
plan will define the specific goals and objectives and establish the 
implementation schedule of the communication strategy for educating the 
public about the WHTI document requirements. In addition to DHS's 
public outreach plans, State has approved contracting with a public 
relations firm to assist with educating the public, particularly border 
resident communities about the new passport card and the requirements 
of WHTI in general. One key challenge of managing public information is 
communicating clear and timely messages about these documents, whose 
costs and availability may be uncertain and changing. For example, 
multiple states are in different stages of developing an enhanced 
driver's license program, but it is not clear when the licenses will be 
available or what other states might participate at a later date. If 
DHS implements the WHTI document requirements in summer 2008, 
Washington may be the only state with an available enhanced driver's 
license. 

Our May 2006 report also noted that DHS and State face challenges in 
developing bilateral coordination with Canada as they implement WHTI. 
According to DHS and State officials, they meet in bilateral working 
groups with their Canadian counterparts, including meetings with 
Canadian stakeholders that the DHS Offices of Screening Coordination 
and International Affairs coordinate, meetings between CBP and the 
Canada Border Services Agency, and meetings between State and the 
Passport Canada office. In addition, CBP officers at one port of entry 
we visited noted that they are in contact with their Canadian 
counterparts and that they discuss potential inspection changes that 
result from WHTI. Finally, the WHTI program office and State's Bureau 
of Consular Affairs told us they are currently in discussions with 
Canadian officials regarding the development of WHTI-acceptable 
alternatives to a Canadian passport, such as an enhanced driver's 
license produced by the Canadian provinces and a Canadian version of 
the passport card. 

In May 2006, we reported that DHS had not requested funds for WHTI in 
its 2007 budget request and had not developed budget estimates. In 
fiscal year 2008, DHS's budget request included about $252 million for 
WHTI implementation, with specific funding requests for program 
management, communication and outreach, software development and 
enhancement, deployment and implementation of technologies, and 
infrastructure upgrades. In addition, DHS requested fiscal year 2008 
funding for staffing increases related to WHTI. In connection with the 
request, CBP developed a strategy to hire additional officers to 
prepare for, among other things, the anticipated increase in the number 
of secondary inspections that may occur because of individuals 
attempting to cross the border without acceptable documentation. 
Although DHS has requested these funds to support WHTI implementation 
during fiscal year 2008, as of December 19, 2007, DHS's fiscal year 
2008 appropriation was awaiting signature by the President. According 
to CBP officials, the extent to which they can hire additional officers 
and fund the contracts that are to support many of the implementation 
efforts remains uncertain until DHS receives its 2008 allocation. 

Agency Comment and Our Evaluation: 

We requested comments on a draft of this report from the Secretaries of 
State and Homeland Security. DHS and State provided technical comments, 
which we incorporated, as appropriate. In a December 17, 2007, letter, 
DHS also provided written comments, which are summarized below and 
included in their entirety in appendix III. 

In its comments, DHS generally agreed with our observations and said 
that the program is a major implementation effort that has continued to 
evolve and progress, even as we conducted our review. DHS noted that 
some aspects of WHTI implementation plans cannot be finalized until it 
has issued the final rule for WHTI land and sea document requirements. 
DHS officials said that the department is taking all appropriate 
actions within its legal authority to fully implement WHTI as soon as 
feasible, given the security imperative driving the initiative. DHS 
stated that it has drafted specific plans that are ready to be 
implemented when the final rule for land and sea document requirements 
has been published. DHS noted that it has issued a request for proposal 
(RFP) for the testing and deployment of RFID and license-plate-reader 
technology, which according to DHS is specific in terms of 
requirements, including requirements that the contractor develop final 
testing protocols and schedules following contract award. DHS further 
stated that it has developed a comprehensive plan for training officers 
to use the new software and a training strategy for the new document 
requirements and related changes in policies and procedures. In 
addition, DHS noted that it has prepared a comprehensive RFP to award a 
public affairs contract that discusses WHTI communication and outreach 
goals, and DHS anticipates future advertising and outreach efforts as 
funds become available. Finally, DHS noted that the WHTI program office 
plans to rely on its operational experience to develop and issue 
guidance to support CBP officers when DHS ends the practice of oral 
declaration. 

We acknowledge that DHS has taken a number of actions to prepare for 
testing and deploying technologies and managing the implementation of 
other WHTI activities. Where appropriate, we revised our draft report 
to more fully recognize the actions that DHS is planning to take when 
the rule for WHTI document requirements at land and sea ports of entry 
is finalized. Nevertheless, we continue to believe that DHS faces 
challenges deploying technology, and staffing and training officers to 
use it. Although DHS has issued the RFP for the testing and deployment 
of RFID and license plate reader technology, the funding for and timing 
of the contract award are uncertain. Because the project schedule is to 
be determined after the contract is awarded, neither we nor DHS can 
predict with any precision when to expect the highest volume ports to 
receive the new technologies associated with WHTI. It will be 
particularly challenging for DHS to deploy these technologies to 13 of 
the highest volume ports during fiscal year 2008, as planned for in its 
fiscal year 2008 budget request. CBP officials told us they expect to 
complete installation of the new hardware at the two test ports 
sometime in April 2008. The technology is then to be tested and 
modified, as appropriate, for a minimum of 45 days. Even if DHS 
encounters no serious setbacks before or during the deployment and 
operational testing, it would not be ready to begin deployment to the 
remaining 11 ports slated to receive the technology in fiscal year 2008 
before June 2008. Any slippage in the deployment schedule would also 
affect other DHS initiatives, including those related to officer 
training at the ports of entry. 

With regard to public outreach efforts, while the RFP contains some of 
the general concepts to be covered by the contractor's strategic 
communications plan, it leaves it to the contractor to define the 
specific goals and objectives and establish the implementation schedule 
for the public relations campaign. Therefore, a specific plan for 
public outreach will not be completed and implemented until a contract 
is awarded, the contractor prepares the communications plan called for 
in the RFP, and DHS approves the contractor's plan. 

As arranged with your offices, unless you publicly announce its 
contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 
30 days after its issue date. At that time, we will send copies of this 
report to the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State and interested 
congressional committees and subcommittees. We will also make copies 
available to others on request. In addition, this report will be 
available at no charge on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this report or wish to 
discuss the matter further, please contact me at (202) 512-8777 or 
stanar@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional 
Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this 
report. Other key contributors to this report were John Mortin, 
Assistant Director; Chuck Bausell; Frances Cook; Michelle Cooper; Karen 
Febey; Danielle Fox; Kathryn Godfrey; Mary Catherine Hult; Richard 
Hung; and Amanda Miller. 

Signed by: 

Richard M. Stana: 
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: General Overview of the Federal Rule-Making Process: 

This appendix provides an overview of the steps in the rule-making 
process for a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866 
and the potential time involved for some of the steps. 

Step 1: Agency (or agencies, if a joint rule) completes development of 
the notice of proposed rule making (NPRM), which includes the proposed 
rule and supplemental information.[Footnote 24] 

Step 2: Agency submits the draft NPRM and supporting materials, 
including any required cost-benefit analysis, to the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) for review. 

Step 3: OMB reviews the draft NPRM and supporting materials and 
coordinates review of the proposed rule by any other agencies that may 
have an interest in it. 

Step 4: OMB notifies the agency in writing of the results of its 
review, including any provisions requiring further consideration by the 
agency, within 90 calendar days after the date of submission to 
OMB.[Footnote 25] 

Step 5: OMB resolves disagreements or conflicts, if any, between or 
among agency heads or between OMB and any agency; if it cannot do so, 
such disagreements or conflicts are resolved by the President or by the 
Vice President acting at the request of the President. 

Step 6: Once OMB notifies the agency that it has completed its review 
without any requests for further consideration, the agency reviews the 
NPRM and publishes it for public comment in the Federal Register. 

Step 7: Agency is to give the public a meaningful opportunity to 
comment on the proposed rule, which generally means a comment period of 
not less than 60 days. 

Step 8: Once the comment period has closed, the agency reviews the 
comments received, makes appropriate revisions to the proposed rule, 
and prepares a notice of the final rule, including supplemental 
information with responses to comments received.[Footnote 26] 

Step 9: Agency submits draft notice and final rule, including updated 
supporting materials or cost-benefit analysis, to OMB for review. 

Step 10: OMB reviews the draft notice, final rule, and supporting 
materials; coordinates review by any other agencies that may have an 
interest in the rule; and notifies the agency of the results within 90 
calendar days after the date of submission to OMB.[Footnote 27] 

Step 11: Once OMB notifies the agency that it has completed its review 
without any requests for further consideration, the agency reviews the 
rule one more time and generally publishes the final rule and 
supplemental information in the Federal Register at least 60 days 
before the new rule takes effect. 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Primary Documents Proposed Under WHTI for Land and Sea and 
Circumstances of Use: 

Document: Passport; 
Population allowed to use document: All travelers (with visa if 
required); 
When and where document can be used: At any U.S. land/sea crossing; 
Length of validity: Varies; 
Radio frequency identification: {A}; 
Machine readable zone: [Check]. 

Document: Passport card; 
Population allowed to use document: U.S. citizens; 
When and where document can be used: At any U.S. land/sea crossing 
arriving from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Available 
spring 2008; 
Length of validity: 10 years; 
Radio frequency identification: [Check]; 
Machine readable zone: [Check]. 

Document: NEXUS; 
Population allowed to use document: U.S. and Canadian citizens approved 
to receive the document; 
When and where document can be used: At any U.S. land and sea crossings 
when card holder is not bringing commercial goods into the country; 
Length of validity: 5 years; 
Radio frequency identification: [Check]; 
Machine readable zone: [Check]. 

Document: SENTRI; 
Population allowed to use document: U.S. citizens approved to receive 
the document; 
When and where document can be used: At any U.S. land and sea crossings 
when card holder is not bringing commercial goods into the country; 
Length of validity: 5 years; 
Radio frequency identification: [Check]; 
Machine readable zone: [Check]. 

Document: FAST; 
Population allowed to use document: Approved U.S. and Canadian 
commercial transport drivers; 
When and where document can be used: At any U.S. land crossings when 
transporting commercial goods; 
Length of validity: 5 years; 
Radio frequency identification: [Check]; 
Machine readable zone: [Check]. 

Document: Merchant Mariner Document; 
Population allowed to use document: U.S. citizen merchant mariners; 
When and where document can be used: At any U.S. land/sea crossing when 
on official mariner business; 
Length of validity: Document is being phased out over the next 5 years; 
Radio frequency identification: [Empty]; 
Machine readable zone: [Empty]. 

Document: Military I.D.; 
Population allowed to use document: U.S. citizens and aliens who are 
members of U.S. armed forces or NATO; 
When and where document can be used: At any U.S. land/sea crossing, but 
only when entering on official military orders; 
Length of validity: Varies; 
Radio frequency identification: [Empty]; 
Machine readable zone: [Empty]. 

Source: GAO Analysis of DHS and State data. 

[A] The passport contains radio frequency identification technology, 
but is not compatible with the technology DHS is installing to read 
documents in vehicle lanes. 

[End of table] 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: Comments from the Department of Homeland Security: 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security: 
Washington, DC 20528: 
[hyperlink, http://www.dhs.gov] 

December 17, 2007: 

Mr. Richard Stana: 
Director, Homeland Security and Justice: U.S. Government Accountability 
Office: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

Dear Mr. Stana: 

Thank you for the opportunity to review the draft report, GAO Draft 
Letter Report "Observations on Implementing the Western Hemisphere 
Travel Initiative" (GAO-08-274R). We generally agree with your 
observations and appreciate the approach you took toward a program 
still in development. 

As your report acknowledges, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative 
(WHTI) is a major implementation effort that has continued to evolve 
and progress even as your review took place. You note that the 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proceeding by a Notice and 
Comment Rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). It is 
therefore necessary that the Final Rule designating acceptable 
documents be issued before steps can be finalized to implement that 
Final Rule. As noted in our technical comments, DHS is taking all 
appropriate actions within its legal authority to fully implement WHTI 
as soon as feasible, given the security imperative driving the 
initiative. 

Your letter notes areas that have not been completed including public 
notice, training and other aspects of implementation. For instance, 
plans that are described as not having been "developed" have generally 
been drafted but cannot yet be finalized. DHS has taken all appropriate 
steps to prepare these documents in conjunction with the issuance of 
the Final Rule. While the APA structures limit our ability to provide 
you with such drafts, we have endeavored to do so for subjects, such as 
facilitative technology choices, which are not contingent on the 
completion of the rulemaking. 

In our technical comments to the report, we do specify that DHS has 
developed plans for testing and deploying technologies. DHS issued a 
Request for Proposal (RFP) for WHTI Radio Frequency Identification 
Technology (RFID) and License Plate Reader (LPR) infrastructure which 
is specific in terms of the requirements for testing and deploying the 
WHTI technologies to the land border. The information technology 
deployment planning and schedule will be solidified following contract 
award. Government and contractor representatives will complete an 
integrated baseline review of the entire project effort within 30 days 
of contract award. The detailed test plans will verify/validate 
contractor performance and lead to government acceptance of the work. 
Validation of contractor performance is a clear deliverable under the 
contract. The WHTI Vehicle Primary Client (WHTI VPC) will be tested 
separately in a laboratory environment, by means of independent tests 
including operational tests at the land border. 

The end-to-end WHTI technical solution including RFID, LPR and WHTI 
client applications will be tested in a controlled Government test lane 
facility prior to operational deployment and testing. Operational 
deployment will be limited to two border crossings. This implementation 
will allow a minimum of 45 days to fully test and evaluate the WHTI 
technical solution before deployment begins to the other land ports. 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would like to clarify that there is 
a comprehensive training plan for the roll out of the WHTI vehicle 
primary client technology in February 2008. The WHTI Program Management 
Office (PMO) also has worked with the training and development teams to 
put together an extensive training strategy for the new WHTI 
documentary requirements and associated operational policy. Training 
requirements related to the WHTI RFID/LPR infrastructure will be 
minimal by comparison to the new WHTI vehicle primary client. CBP will 
deploy the new vehicle primary client in February 2008 to Blaine and 
Nogales, in advance of the new RFID/LPR infrastructure. Operational 
testing and evaluation will continue for approximately 90 days. 

CBP has prepared a comprehensive RFP to award a public affairs 
contract. This RFP goes into great detail regarding the WHTI 
communication and outreach goals. This RFP was prepared consistent with 
available funding and has been released for the purpose of soliciting 
proposals. CBP anticipates future advertising and public outreach 
efforts will occur as additional funds become available. 

Lastly, in addition to the GAO statements regarding the reports from 
the field about the possible effect of the related elimination of oral 
declarations alone, CBP would add that the WHTI program office will 
rely on its operational experience in processing travelers entering the 
United States by land to issue field guidance. That field guidance will 
ensure that this change is implemented in a manner that will minimize 
delays while achieving the security benefit underlying WHTI. 

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft 
letter report and provide clarifications. 

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

Stephen J. Pecinovsky: 
Director:
Departmental GAO/OIG Liaison Office: 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] GAO, Counterfeit Documents Used to Enter the United States from 
Certain Western Hemisphere Countries Not Detected, GAO-03-713T 
(Washington, D.C.: May 13, 2003). 

[2] U.S. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United 
States, The 9/11 Commission Report (Washington: GPO, 2004). 

[3] Pub. L. No. 108-458,  7209, 118 Stat. 3638, 3823 (2004), amended 
by Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007, Pub. L. 
No. 109-295,  546, 120 Stat. 1355, 1386-87 (2006). This provision 
applies to citizens of Bermuda, Canada, and Mexico entering the United 
States as nonimmigrant visitors. 

[4] Ports of entry are government-designated locations where DHS 
inspects persons and goods to determine whether they may be lawfully 
admitted into the country. A land port of entry may have more than one 
border crossing point where DHS inspects travelers for admissibility 
into the United States. 

[5] See Documents Required for Travelers Departing from or Arriving in 
the United States at Air Ports of Entry from within the Western 
Hemisphere, 71 Fed. Reg. 68,412 (Nov. 24, 2006). 

[6] These requirements include (1) National Institute of Standards and 
Technology certification that DHS and State have selected a card 
architecture that meets or exceeds the security standards set by the 
International Organization for Standardization, (2) sharing the 
technology used for the passport card with the governments of Canada 
and Mexico, (3) submitting a detailed justification to the House and 
Senate Committees on Appropriations concerning the fee that will be 
charged to individuals by the U.S. Postal Service for the passport 
card, (4) developing an alternative procedure for groups of children 
entering the United States under adult supervision and with parental 
consent, (5) ensuring that the infrastructure needed to process the 
passport cards has been installed at ports of entry, (6) training CBP 
officers at those ports of entry to use the new technology, (7) 
ensuring that the passport card is available to U.S. citizens, and (8) 
establishing a single date for implementing the program at sea and land 
ports of entry. 

[7] H.R. 2764, 110th Cong.  545 (as amended and passed by Senate, Dec. 
18, 2007 and by House, Dec. 19, 2007). 

[8] GAO, Observations on Efforts to Implement the Western Hemisphere 
Travel Initiative on the U.S. Border with Canada, GAO-06-741R 
(Washington, D.C.: May 25, 2006). 

[9] As previously noted, the fiscal year 2008 DHS appropriation was 
passed by Congress on December 19, 2007 but not yet signed by the 
President. 

[10] See 8 U.S.C.  1225(a) 

[11] See 8 C.F.R.  235.1(a), (b), and (f)(1). 

[12] The Western Hemisphere countries addressed in this report are 
those in North, South, or Central America, and associated islands and 
waters. These islands are Bermuda and the islands located in the 
Caribbean Sea, except Cuba. 

[13] A nonimmigrant alien is an international traveler that wishes to 
enter the United States on a temporary basis for tourism, medical 
treatment, business, temporary work, study, or other similar reasons. 

[14] As previously mentioned, in some cases Canadian citizens may be 
admitted with an oral declaration of citizenship alone. 

[15] See U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Western Hemisphere Travel 
Initiative in the Land and Sea Environments Draft Programmatic 
Environmental Assessment (Washington, D.C.: June 2007). 

[16] GAO, Border Security: Despite Progress, Weaknesses in Traveler 
Inspections Exist at Our Nation's Ports of Entry, GAO-08-219 
(Washington, D.C.: Nov. 5, 2007). 

[17] GAO, Border Security: Security Vulnerabilities at Unmanned and 
Unmonitored U.S. Border Locations, GAO-07-884T (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 
27, 2007). 

[18] The only exceptions to the passport requirement for air travel 
would be for United States citizens who are members of the U.S. armed 
forces traveling on active duty, travelers who present a merchant 
mariner document traveling in conjunction with maritime business, and 
travelers who present a NEXUS Air card--NEXUS is one of three trusted 
traveler programs designed to expedite security processing for low risk 
travelers who apply and are granted membership. 

[19] The trusted traveler programs--NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST--are 
designed to streamline border inspection for pre-approved, low-risk 
travelers and commercial drivers. The NEXUS program is a joint program 
between the United States and Canada. After passing a security-based 
vetting process and paying an application fee, Mexican, Canadian, and 
U.S. citizens in these programs are eligible for expedited passage into 
the United States when traveling in designated trusted traveler lanes. 

[20] In addition, members of the U.S. military traveling under official 
orders may show a Military Identification Card, U.S. Merchant Mariners 
traveling in conjunction with official maritime business may show a 
merchant mariner document, and U.S. citizen cruise line passengers 
whose voyages begin and end in the United States or its territories 
would be allowed to present a photo identification and birth 
certificate or other evidence of citizenship. 

[21] The Border Crossing Card permits limited travel, without 
additional documentation 25 miles inside the border of the United 
States (75 miles if entering through certain ports of entry in Arizona) 
for fewer than 30 days. 

[22] RFID is an automated data-capture technology that can be used to 
electronically identify and store information contained on a tag. 
Identification capabilities are provided using wireless communication 
to transmit information. The information being transmitted is a single 
identifying number that will allow the CBP database to find an 
individual's personal information. This technology is similar in 
function to the EZ-PASS system in use at highway toll stations. 

[23] Some documents included in the proposed rule that will be 
acceptable in limited and specific circumstances currently lack the 
ability to be electronically read at land ports of entry (e.g., 
merchant mariner documents and birth certificates). 

[24] An agency may also begin this process with an advance notice of 
proposed rule making that seeks comments and suggestions from the 
public on the potential content of a forthcoming NPRM, but this step is 
not required by law or executive order in most cases. 

[25] Executive Order 12866 provides that, for rules governed by a 
statutory deadline, the agency shall, to the extent practicable, 
schedule rule making proceedings so as to permit sufficient time for 
OMB review. It also provides that when an agency is obligated by law to 
act more quickly than normal review procedures allow, the agency shall 
comply with the requirements to submit the proposed rule and required 
supporting materials to OMB, "to the extent practicable." 

[26] If the final rule is materially different from the proposed rule, 
possibly because of new issues raised or other important legal or 
substantive developments during the comment period, an agency may 
decide to publish it as a proposed rule instead with a second comment 
period. This approach helps the agency provide sufficient notice and 
opportunity for public comment on how the rule addresses the new issues 
or developments, but it delays implementation of the final rule. 

[27] This time period is reduced to 45 days if OMB has previously 
reviewed the rule and supporting information and there has been no 
material change in the facts and circumstances upon which the rule is 
based. 

[End of section] 

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