Information Technology:

INS Needs to Strengthen Its Investment Management Capability

GAO-01-146: Published: Dec 29, 2000. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 2000.

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The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year in information technology (IT) to help (1) prevent aliens from entering the United States illegally and remove aliens who succeed in doing so and (2) provide services or benefits to facilitate entry, residence, employment, and naturalization to legal immigrants. The Clinger-Cohen Act requires agency heads to implement a process for maximizing the value and assessing and managing the risks of its IT investments. GAO examined leading private and public sector IT management practices to determine whether INS is effectively managing its IT investments and whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) is effectively promoting, guiding, and overseeing INS' investment management activities. GAO found that INS lacks the basic capabilities upon which to build IT investment management maturity. Furthermore, INS is not managing IT investments as a complete portfolio. By managing its IT investments as individual projects, INS will not be able to determine which investments contribute most to the agency mission. GAO also found that DOJ is not guiding and overseeing INS' investment management approach.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve DOJ's guidance and oversight of components' IT investment management process activities, the Attorney General should direct the DOJ CIO to follow through on the department's plans to issue an IT investment management policy and guidance to the components and to ensure that the policy and guidance directs the DOJ CIO to monitor the components' progress in developing and establishing an IT investment management process and take appropriate action if they are not progressing sufficiently.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice issued its "Guide to the DOJ Information Technology Investment Management Process" in August 2001. The guide directs Justice components to develop and implement an information technology investment management process and defines the Justice Chief Information Officer's procedures for monitoring components' progress in developing and establishing this process.

    Recommendation: To improve DOJ's guidance and oversight of components' IT investment management process activities, the Attorney General should direct the DOJ CIO to follow through on the department's plans to issue an IT investment management policy and guidance to the components and to ensure that the policy and guidance instructs DOJ components and bureaus on how to develop an investment management process. This guidance should be based on the investment management guidance contained in this report and, at minimum, should include component roles, responsibilities, authorities, and policies and procedures for developing an IT investment management process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice issued its "Guide to the DOJ Information Technology Investment Management Process" in August 2001. The guide instructs DOJ components on how to implement an investment management process and is based on GAO guidance. The guide includes component roles, responsibilities, authorities, and procedures for developing an Information Technology Investment Management process and obtaining the Department's approval of the process.

    Recommendation: To improve DOJ's guidance and oversight of components' IT investment management process activities, the Attorney General should direct the DOJ CIO to follow through on the department's plans to issue an IT investment management policy and guidance to the components and to ensure that the policy and guidance directs DOJ components and bureaus, including INS, to develop and implement IT investment management processes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice issued its "Guide to the DOJ Information Technology Investment Management Process" in August 2001. The guide directs Justice components to develop and implement IT investment management processes.

    Recommendation: Until INS develops a complete enterprise architecture and implements the key practices associated with stages two and three critical processes, the Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to limit requests for future appropriations for IT only to efforts that (1) support ongoing operations and maintenance, but not major enhancements, of existing systems; (2) support INS efforts to develop and implement IT investment management processes and an enterprise architecture; (3) are small, represent low technical risk, and can be delivered in a relatively short period of time; and (4) are congressionally mandated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to INS, fiscal year 2002 investments, which were not funded through the counter-terrorism supplemental, were limited to the four categories specified in GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen INS' investment management capability and address weaknesses discussed in this report, the Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to implement the approved plan and report to the DOJ Chief Information Officer (CIO), according to established review milestones, on progress made against the plan's goals and time frames.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Justice Chief Information Officer (CIO) approved INS' information technology investment management improvement plan on February 25, 2003, and INS began implementing it at that time. INS officials added that they reported progress against the plan's goals and timeframes to the Justice CIO on a quarterly basis, in accordance with GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen INS' investment management capability and address weaknesses discussed in this report, the Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to develop a plan, within 9 months, for implementing IT investment management process improvements that are based on stages two and three critical processes and specifies measurable goals and time frames, ranks initiatives, defines a management structure for directing and controlling the improvements, establishes review milestones, and recognizes any direction and guidance that DOJ issues. This plan should first focus on those critical processes in stage two of information technology investment management because, collectively, they provide the foundation for building a mature IT investment management process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS developed a plan for implementing IT investment management process improvements based on stage 2 and 3 critical processes. The plan assigns responsibility, specifies measurable timeframes for completing actions needed to meet stage 2 and 3 requirements and establishes investment decision points. In addition, INS developed an Information Technology Investment Management Transition Planning document that establishes the order in which project portfolios are to be transitioned to the new IT investment management process.

    Recommendation: To strengthen INS' investment management capability and address the weaknesses discussed in this report, the Attorney General should submit the IT plan to the DOJ CIO for review and approval.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS submitted its information technology investment management implementation plan to Justice for review and approval on November 26, 2002. The Department approved the plan on February 25, 2003.

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