Immigration Service:

INS' Technology Selection Process Is Weak, Informal, and Inconsistently Applied

PEMD-88-16: Published: Apr 22, 1988. Publicly Released: May 10, 1988.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Kwai-Cheung Chan
(202) 512-3652
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the methodologies and practices that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) used to select technologies for the enforcement of immigration law.

GAO found that INS: (1) lacked systematic procedures for selecting new technologies; (2) lacked policies regarding the procedures for the identification of needs or problems, as well as the identification of solutions; (3) lacked policies regarding the types of items that it should test or the scope and methods for the testing process; (4) lacked policies regarding the use of the research and development office or the interaction between it and program offices and users; (5) did not consistently select or adequately review or test technology; (6) did not have a current or complete inventory of items used in the field; (7) improperly allowed its regional and field offices to determine how they distributed resources and spent funds; (8) did not gather or maintain information on the effectiveness of items used or have a clearinghouse to provide the information to prospective purchasers or users; (9) lacked long-term planning for and control over expenditures for electronic and communication equipment; (10) did not sufficiently plan its technology acquisitions to eliminate additional purchases and show potential savings; and (11) experienced difficulties in applying the GAO-developed framework to specific cases, due to differences in the current INS process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new INS Commissioner instituted changes.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to adopt a decisionmaking policy that includes certain practices that are critical to the appropriate identification and selection of technology. These practices should be tailored to the particular item under review and should link the amount of effort and resources dedicated during review to such factors as cost, complexity, and stage of development.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This is part of the new INS procedures/framework, implemented in December 1988.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to develop and adopt a procedure for the identification of needs or problems. This procedure should include a mechanism that involves the field users in the identification of such needs or problems and also stipulate that problems should be identified prior to the identification of solutions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A Steering Committee has been established by the Director, R&D, at INS.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to develop or adopt a procedure for the identification of solutions. For development technologies, INS should establish a steering committee for the review of these projects. Members on the committee should be from a broad range of INS offices, such as representatives from each central program office, each associate commissioner's and the commissioners' offices, research and development (R&D), plans and analysis, contracting and procurement, communications and electronics, the field, and the testing group.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This function is now included in RDT&E group activities.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to establish a testing group to assist with the testing of new technology. This group should be responsible for designing and conducting tests and for evaluation and reporting of test results. Members of this group should include individuals skilled in evaluation design methods and statistical analysis techniques, as well as representatives of the potential users; some members of this group should remain constant, and some should rotate, depending on the features of the technology being tested. The first responsibility of this testing group should be to develop guidelines for the preparation of test designs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This is part of the new INS procedures/framework, implemented in December 1988.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to collect and analyze post-acquisition information. This would provide data on the experiences gained through use of technologies for input into future decisions regarding technology purchases. The collection of postacquisition information would be particularly useful for items that are relatively expensive, purchased in multiple numbers, or replaced periodically or regularly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This is now part of R&D group activities.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to establish a central clearinghouse for the collection and dissemination of information. The clearinghouse should be responsible for collecting pre- and post-acquisition information about technologies and for dissemination of information to prospective users or purchasers and to the steering committee established for reviewing research and development projects. Prior to the establishment of such a clearinghouse, INS should assess the relative costs and benefits of various approaches, linking the anticipated comprehensiveness and scope of the clearinghouse and its data gathering and dissemination activities to such factors as cost, type, and complexity of technologies used.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS has instituted in total the framework recommended by GAO.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, given the importance of technology to the performance of the enforcement functions, to carefully examine the current research and development program and decide upon the most advantageous situation with respect to the future management structure, amount of resources, and role accorded to research and development at INS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: INS states that it cannot break the contract. All vehicles were completed in February 1989, at least 1 year late. Due to the complexity of the contract prepared by INS, the contractor is now seeking additional payment for costs for which INS appears to be liable. This will add about $200,000 to the cost of the procurement. The contract has been completed.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to cancel or forego the procurement of some technologies currently being considered or developed, based on the questionable need for such equipment at this time. If such action is allowable under the current contract, INS should examine the feasibility of delaying or eliminating the development of 7 to 10 improved image enhancement vehicles until operational effectiveness and reliability have been demonstrated for some of the vehicles.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The second item was purchased then later returned to the vendor for partial refund because of operational problems with the item. The December 5, 1988, INS report states that INS agreed with this recommendation and rescinded the purchase request.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to not purchase the second microspectrophotometer for the Laguna Niguel document analysis unit. To purchase the microspectrophotometer, the Laguna Niguel unit should justify why it needs a system that has not proven effective at the forensic document laboratory.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The December 5, 1988, INS report states that port locations identified as having significant fraud risk will be given FITF equipment, but that no further expansion in the use of equipment at other ports is planned.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, given the apparent underutilization of fraud intercept task force (FITF) equipment at some ports of entry, to forgo further acquisition until it has been determined that currently available equipment is fully used, and where, if necessary, the existing FITF equipment could be relocated to increase utilization. Additionally, INS should consider purchasing only some portion of the $100,000 worth of FITF equipment originally planned for 1987.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice did not purchase any more planes.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to not purchase an additional, larger aircraft at this time. Unless load factors for the Convair 580 increase over the 1987 through 1988 period, a larger aircraft does not appear to be justified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice has begun implementing a similar methodology and has expanded the RDT&E group.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to establish a decisionmaking methodology, similar to or the same as the procedures outlined in the GAO framework for the selection of technologies. These procedures should be tailored to the scope and nature of the problem or technological solution, so that issues that are more complex or items that are costly or technically sophisticated receive a level of review commensurate with their complexity and cost, and items or issues that are less complex or less costly receive less extensive review.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  13. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No radios are being purchased.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner, INS, to, rather than purchasing new models, either seek buyers for the current data encryption standard radios and use the payments for purchasing new radios, or modify the current radios to make them compatible with existing INS communications equipment. Further, since the original radios were not adequately tested, if new radios are determined to be the most cost-effective solution, it would be more efficient to field test a limited number of such radios (no more than 50) prior to expanded acquisition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Jul 20, 2016

Apr 8, 2016

Jan 20, 2016

Sep 9, 2015

Jul 30, 2015

Mar 13, 2015

Mar 2, 2015

Oct 3, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here