Information Technology:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Is Beginning to Address Infrastructure Modernization Program Weaknesses but Key Improvements Still Needed

GAO-06-823: Published: Jul 27, 2006. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 2006.

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The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) fiscal year 2005 appropriations act provided $39.6 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) program to modernize its information technology (IT) infrastructure. The goals of the program--which consists of seven projects and is referred to as Atlas--include improving information sharing and strengthening security. As mandated by the appropriations act, the department is to develop and submit for approval an expenditure plan for Atlas that satisfies certain legislative conditions, including a review by GAO. In performing its review of the Atlas plan, GAO was asked to (1) determine whether the plan satisfies certain legislative conditions, (2) determine the status of our prior recommendations, and (3) provide any other observations about the plan and management of the program.

DHS's fiscal year 2005 expenditure plan, related documentation, and program officials' statements and commitments, satisfy or partially satisfy the legislative conditions set forth by Congress, including (1) meeting the capital planning and investment control review requirements established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); (2) complying with the DHS enterprise architecture; (3) complying with the acquisition rules, requirements, guidelines, and system acquisition management practices of the federal government; and (4) being reviewed and approved by DHS's Investment Review Board, the Secretary of DHS, and OMB. A number of steps to address prior GAO recommendations are in progress or have been partially implemented. For example, ICE issued a revised cost-benefit analysis in December 2005. However, this analysis did not address all key ICE mission requirements, such as sharing law enforcement and immigration information with external partners. In addition, it issued an updated security plan in April 2006, but the plan was missing important security management practices, or only partially addressed them. GAO also observed that current Atlas project plans do not include essential elements, such as a work breakdown structure of tasks to be performed, identification of project costs, analysis of constraints and risks, and review and approval by management and key stakeholders. Thus, there is much that remains to be accomplished to minimize the risks associated with the Atlas program's capacity to deliver promised IT infrastructure capabilities and benefits on time and within budget. Given that hundreds of millions of dollars are to be invested, it is essential that DHS follow through on commitments to build the capacity to effectively manage the program. Moreover, expenditure plans need to relay reliable information about program commitments, including the benefits to be produced, the capabilities to be delivered, and the cost and schedule estimates to be met. By not providing this information in its fiscal year 2005 expenditure plan, the department is impeding congressional oversight and not providing a meaningful basis for measuring performance and ensuring accountability.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its response to our report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agreed to implement this recommendation and has, for example, briefed Senate and House appropriations subcommittees in August and November 2006 on, among other things, the program's status, including its progress in implementing our recommendations. In addition, in ICE's fiscal year 2007 spending plan prepared for congressional appropriators, the agency included a section summarizing actions taken to correct program weaknesses and implement GAO's recommendations. Further, ICE program officials stated that they intend to include a summary of actions to implement our recommendations in any future briefings to congressional committees.

    Recommendation: To minimize risks to the Atlas program, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to report periodically to Senate and House appropriations subcommittees regarding the program's progress in implementing our recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with our recommendation, the Atlas program in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2006, revised its seven project plans to better address project milestones, risks, constraints, resources, skills and requirements, detailed work breakdown structure, budget and schedule, and stakeholder identification. In addition, Atlas program officials, including the program manager, stated in mid-2007 that they had recently revised each plan to reflect cost, schedule, and other changes made in the program's updated Acquisition Plan Baseline. According to these officials, the plans are currently being used to manage the seven Atlas projects, and for this reason, they are continuously reviewed by the Program Management Office to monitor any change in project status.

    Recommendation: To minimize risks to the Atlas program, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to develop and implement Atlas project plans consistent with elements of effective project planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

 

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