Key US-VISIT Components at Varying Stages of Completion, but Integrated and Reliable Schedule Needed
GAO-10-13: Published: Nov 19, 2009. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 2009.
The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program stores and processes biometric and biographic information to, among other things, control and monitor the entry and exit of foreign visitors. Currently, an entry capability is operating at almost 300 U.S. ports of entry, but an exit capability is not. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has previously reported on limitations in DHS's efforts to plan and execute its efforts to deliver US-VISIT exit, and made recommendations to improve these areas. GAO was asked to determine (1) the status of DHS's efforts to deliver a comprehensive exit solution and (2) to what extent DHS is applying an integrated approach to managing its comprehensive exit solution. To accomplish this, GAO assessed US-VISIT exit project plans, schedules, and other management documentation against relevant criteria, and it observed exit pilots.
DHS has established a Comprehensive Exit project within its US-VISIT program that consists of six components that are at varying stages of completion. To DHS's credit, the US-VISIT program office has established integrated project management plans for, and has adopted an integrated approach to, interacting with and involving stakeholders in its Comprehensive Exit project. However, it has not adopted an integrated approach to scheduling, executing, and tracking the work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a comprehensive exit solution. Rather, it is relying on several separate and distinct schedules to manage individual components and the US-VISIT prime contractor's work that supports these components. Moreover, neither of the two component schedules that GAO reviewed are reliable because they have not been derived in accordance with relevant guidance. Specifically, both the Air Exit Pilots schedule and the Temporary Worker Visa Exit Pilot schedule only fully meet one of nine key schedule estimating practices, and either partially, minimally, or do not meet the remaining eight. In contrast, the prime contractor's schedule is largely reliable, as it fully or substantially meets all nine practices. Without a master schedule for the Comprehensive Exit project that is integrated and derived in accordance with relevant guidance, DHS cannot reliably commit to when and how the work will be accomplished to deliver a comprehensive exit solution to its almost 300 ports of entry, and it cannot adequately monitor and manage its progress toward this end.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In March 2013, pursuant to the explanatory statement for Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 2013 appropriation, DHS re-assigned the responsibilities of the US-VISIT program to other organizations within DHS. For example, DHS transferred US-VISIT's overstay analysis function to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. DHS also created the Office of Biometric Identity Management within the National Protection and Programs Directorate, which assumed US-VISIT's previous responsibility for managing systems for tracking and matching arrival and departure records for the purpose of identifying potential overstays, and for maintaining biometric information that DHS collects from nonimmigrants upon their entry into the United States. DHS also assigned U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Office of Field Operations with responsibility for coordinating entry and exit policies and operations, including developing and maintaining the integrated master schedule for the department's biometric exit program. In response to our recommendation, in April 2015, CBP developed a corrective action plan to facilitate a structured approach to addressing the weaknesses in its schedule and achieving compliance with best practices. Pursuant to its corrective action plan, in June 2016, CBP updated its schedules for a series of entry/exit pilot projects. These pilot projects include, for example, testing a new biometric exit concept of operations at selected airports and conducting a field test related to collecting biometric and biographic data at the southwest border of the United States. Our analysis of CBP's pilot project schedules showed improvement in multiple areas that we previously identified as weaknesses, such as the sequencing of activities, assigning resources to activities, and conducting schedule risk analyses. CBP also provided documentation that it conducted assessments of the health of its schedules against best practices. As a result of these efforts, the program has improved its ability to manage and measure its progress in executing the work to be accomplished.
Recommendation: To better ensure the successful delivery of a comprehensive US-VISIT exit solution, GAO augments its prior recommendations aimed at strengthening Comprehensive Exit project planning. The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Undersecretary for National Protection and Programs to have the US-VISIT Program Director develop and maintain an integrated master schedule for the Comprehensive Exit project in accordance with the nine practices discussed in this report.
Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security