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    Subject Term: "Immigration information systems"

    4 publications with a total of 22 open recommendations
    Director: Gambler, Rebecca S
    Phone: (202) 512-6912

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should ensure SAVE guidance, including written materials and instructional videos, clearly and accurately reflects user agencies' responsibilities for completing each step of a SAVE check, as outlined in each agency's memorandum of agreement.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a mechanism to oversee agencies' completion of training on additional verification in accordance with SAVE MOA provisions and program policies.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should provide notifications to user agencies when a case is ready for the user agency to review.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a more effective method for ensuring that individuals are aware of how they can access and correct their immigration records, such as by updating and improving the Fact Sheet for Benefit Applicants.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a documented, risk-based approach to monitoring and compliance, including (1) a risk-based approach to selecting behaviors to monitor; (2) standards for what triggers compliance actions for the selected behaviors; and (3) a risk-based process for how USCIS will prioritize and select agencies for compliance actions.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and communicate a process for user agencies to update contact information.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should ensure that user agencies participate in compliance reviews when selected, in accordance with SAVE MOA provisions and USCIS policy.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should identify the root causes of agencies' noncompliance with SAVE MOA provisions and program policies and tailor agency recommendations to those identified causes.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve management and oversight of the SAVE program, the director of USCIS should develop and implement a process for ensuring user agencies implement corrective actions such as through a system of escalating compliance assistance actions and follow-up.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Carol C. Harris
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS Chief Information Officer (CIO), in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of the Office of Transformation Coordination (OTC), to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to complete planning for software releases prior to initiating development and ensure software meets business expectations prior to deployment.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had taken steps to address this recommendation. In particular, in June 2017, USCIS provided an updated policy, dated April 2017, governing planning and deploying software releases. USCIS also demonstrated partial compliance with that policy. For example, it provided some release planning review documentation for recent releases that are required by the updated policy, including readiness review memos for releases 7.2 and 8.1. However, USCIS did not demonstrate that the program responsible for developing the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS) was consistently following its updated policy. For example, USCIS did not demonstrate that the program was completing all planning activities prior to initiating development, as called for in its updated policy. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate compliance with its previous policy for all software releases planned and deployed since our July 2016 report. We will continue to work with USCIS to monitor actions the agency is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to consistently implement the principles of the framework adopted for Agile software development.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided updated policy governing the development of software releases, dated April 2017, along with release planning artifacts specific to USCIS ELIS. The updated policy included an appendix devoted to generally accepted agency practices and applying Agile principles in the agency. However, USCIS had not clearly indicated if USCIS ELIS was to implement the practices described in the policy. For example, the updated policy did not require program compliance with the generally accepted agency practices. Moreover, supporting artifacts from the release planning process did not always define a commitment to a particular development methodology or set of development practices. For example, the team process agreements, which describe how members of individual teams will work with each other, did not indicate if developers were to adhere to the practices described in updated USCIS policy. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to define and consistently execute appropriate roles and responsibilities for individuals responsible for development activities consistent with its selected development framework.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in June 2017, USCIS provided updated policy, dated April 2017, governing the development of software releases and release planning artifacts. The updated policy and release documentation defined some roles and responsibilities that were previously only described by USCIS in its informal November 2014 management model, such as the authority and responsibility of a product owner. However, program documentation and policy did not define all of the roles and responsibilities. For example, program documentation and policy did not define the roles and responsibilities of a facilitator, or Scrum Master, which is a position identified in leading practices for software development using Scrum, the development methodology previously identified by the program. In addition, USCIS did not demonstrate that it had defined and committed to an updated development methodology for software releases. Such a defined methodology will impact expectations for the roles and responsibilities in software development. Without such a defined methodology or approach to Agile software development, it is not clear if roles and responsibilities defined by previously documented approach to Agile software development are still applicable for the current development approach. Moreover, documentation associated with program releases and updated policy did not define all of the roles and responsibilities for positions described by USCIS in its May 2017 written response to GAO. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to identify all system users and involve them in release planning activities.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DHS and USCIS had not provided information demonstrating that the department has addressed this recommendation. In October 2016, DHS provided a written response stating that the USCIS Office of Information Technology and Office of Transformation Coordination were working closely with the various USCIS directorates to obtain and integrate feedback through regular review sessions with the end users and through additional end user testing. However, as of July 2017, DHS and USCIS have not provided new information about the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to write user stories that identify user roles, include estimates of complexity, take no longer than one sprint to complete, and describe business value.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had provided GAO with documentation intended to demonstrate that the agency had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided updated policy governing the development of software releases along with release planning artifacts specific to USCIS ELIS and an Independent Verification and Validation assessment. The agency also provided a series of backlogs that captured user stories for some software releases. In addition, the Independent Verification and Validation assessment indicated that the program was tracking user story quality as part of assessing whether value was continuously discovered and aligned to the mission. However, the assessment report provided to GAO indicated a negative trend for this outcome. Moreover, USCIS policy no longer set expectations regarding user story development. In addition, supporting artifacts from the release planning process did not always define a commitment to a particular development methodology, which is turn impacts the expectations for writing user stories. Finally, backlogs provided by USCIS did not cover all releases in development since our July 2016 report and did not include enough detail to assess all aspects of the user story process (e.g., story size and user involvement). We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to establish outcomes for Agile software development.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in April 2017, USCIS issued updated policy governing software development at the agency. The updated policy included an appendix devoted to generally accepted agency practices and applying Agile principles in the agency. This appendix also included a set of ten outcomes associated with using Agile practices at USCIS. For example, outcomes included that value is continuously discovered and aligned to the mission. However, the updated policy did not require program compliance with the practices and principles described in the appendix. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate that USCIS ELIS had committed to achieving a specific set of outcomes for Agile software development, such as the outcomes described in the USCIS policy. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that the program executes Agile software development for USCIS ELIS consistent with its own policies and guidance and follows applicable leading practices, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update, as needed, existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to monitor program performance and report to appropriate entities through the collection of reliable metrics.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided updated policy governing the development of software that called for teams to prepare an Operations Monitoring Plan or dashboard showing the practices, tools, and measures that will monitor applications in production. The agency also provided a series of documents from internal systems and processes intended to monitor performance, such as a product dashboard for analyzing code quality (i.e., SonarQube) and a report from its Independent Verification and Validation team. However, the program was undergoing a re-baseline and had yet to document updated cost, schedule, and performance expectations against which to monitor. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate that other metrics, such as customer satisfaction and team velocity, were being reliably collected. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help manage the USCIS ELIS system, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to conduct unit and integration, and functional acceptance tests, and code inspection consistent with stated program goals.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, USCIS had taken steps to address this recommendation. For example, in May 2017, USCIS provided artifacts from internal systems in place to monitor software development performance. These metrics monitored aspects of testing, such as code quality and code coverage. However, the program did not provide an updated Test and Evaluation Master Plan, which is a document it will produce as part of its ongoing effort to re-baseline. A Test and Evaluation Master Plan sets the testing expectations for the program as agreed upon with its stakeholders in DHS and USCIS. The updated plan will provide a basis for further evaluation of the steps DHS and USCIS have taken to address this recommendation. Moreover, the agency did not demonstrate that functional acceptance tests were being conducted in accordance with stated program goals. For example, the agency did not provide acceptance criteria or the associated tests demonstrating that user stories passed the defined acceptance criteria. We will continue to work with USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions it is taking to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help manage the USCIS ELIS system, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Director of USCIS to direct the USCIS CIO, in coordination with the DHS CIO and the Chief of OTC, to review and update existing policies and guidance and consider additional controls to develop complete test plans and cases for interoperability and end user testing, as defined in the USCIS Transformation Program Test and Evaluation Master Plan, and document the results.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DHS and USCIS had not provided information demonstrating that they had addressed this recommendation. In October 2016, DHS provided a written response indicating that an internal process for revisiting the USCIS ELIS Test and Evaluation Master Plan had been initiated, with participation from all relevant stakeholder groups. A Test and Evaluation Master Plan sets the testing expectations for the program as agreed upon with its stakeholders in DHS and USCIS. The updated plan will provide a basis for further evaluation of the steps DHS and USCIS have taken to address this recommendation. The letter also stated that USCIS had begun to work on a policy for new interoperability test procedures. Moreover, the letter added that end user testing is a continuing activity, including providing feedback of observed issues into the development queue, with the slow launch of the naturalization capabilities in USCIS ELIS being a model. However, as of July 2017, DHS and USCIS had not provided new information about the status of this recommendation. We will continue to work with DHS and USCIS to obtain additional documentation about actions they are taking to address this recommendation.
    Director: Carol R. Cha
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve Transformation Program governance, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Under Secretary for Management to ensure that the Acquisition Review Board is effectively monitoring the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule; ensuring that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved; and relying on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had demonstrated that it had taken steps to address this recommendation, but additional steps were needed. Since we issued this recommendation in May 2015, the Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management (PARM), which serves as the Acquisition Review Board (ARB) executive secretariat and is to oversee DHS's acquisition portfolio, in coordination with the Office of the Chief Information Officer, has actively increased program oversight. For example, beginning in May 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demonstrated that it submitted data supporting cost, schedule, and technical performance metrics to DHS on a monthly basis. The ARB has also held a number of meetings to discuss the Transformation Program and issued associated Acquisition Decision Memoranda with related action items. In addition, in February 2016, PARM demonstrated that DHS developed a procedure to help ensure acquisition decision memorandum actions, including corrective actions, are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved. However, as of August 2017, the USCIS Transformation Program was in breach of its previously approved schedule expectations and was taking a strategic pause in developing new software while working to re-baseline cost and schedule expectations. During this strategic pause, the program is working to complete various action items assigned by the Acquisition Review Board, including completing an updated Release Roadmap and submitting it to PARM no later than December 29, 2017; updated Lifecycle Cost Estimate and providing it to the Cost Analysis Division no later than December 29, 2017; updated Test and Evaluation Master Plan and submitting it to the Office of Test and Evaluation no later than January 31, 2018; and an updated Acquisition Program Baseline and providing it to PARM no later than December 29, 2017. We will continue to monitor DHS?s efforts to re-baseline the USCIS Transformation Program and the Acquisition Review Board's efforts to monitor the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule; ensure that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved; and rely on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations until and after a new baseline is established.
    Recommendation: To improve Transformation Program governance, the Secretary of DHS should direct the DHS Under Secretary for Management, in coordination with the Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, to ensure that the Executive Steering Committee is effectively monitoring the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule and relying on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had demonstrated that it had taken steps to address this recommendation, but additional steps were needed. More specifically, as of July 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Transformation program office provided evidence that the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) continued to discuss cost, schedule, and operational performance metrics as part of the program's ESC meetings. However, as of August 2017, the USCIS Transformation Program was in breach of its previously approved schedule expectations and was taking a strategic pause in developing new software while working to re-baseline its cost and schedule expectations. During this strategic pause, the program is working to complete various action items assigned by the Acquisition Review Board, including completing an updated Release Roadmap and submitting it to the Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management (PARM) no later than December 29, 2017; updated Lifecycle Cost Estimate and providing it to the Cost Analysis Division no later than December 29, 2017; updated Test and Evaluation Master Plan and submitting it to the Office of Test and Evaluation no later than January 31, 2018; and an updated Acquisition Program Baseline and providing it to PARM no later than December 29, 2017. In addition, according to the program?s August 2017 Acquisition Decision Memorandum, the ESC has been transformed into a component-only body with no headquarters involvement, and the program was to establish a Program Management Integrated Product Team, which was to meet bi-weekly beginning in September 2017. We will continue to monitor DHS's efforts to re-baseline the USCIS Transformation Program, the impact of changes to the ESC, and the ESC?s efforts to effectively monitor the Transformation Program's performance and progress toward a predefined cost and schedule and rely on complete and accurate program data to review the performance of the Transformation Program against stated expectations until and after a new program baseline is established.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that assessments prepared by the Office of the Chief Information Officer in support of the department's updates to the federal IT Dashboard more fully reflect the current status of the Transformation Program, the Secretary of DHS should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to use accurate and reliable information, such as operational assessments of the new architecture and cost and schedule parameters approved by the Under Secretary of Management.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had demonstrated that it had taken steps to address this recommendation, but additional steps were needed. In particular, in February 2016, the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), in coordination with the Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management (PARM), had consolidated the department's Investment Management System and Next Generation Periodic Reporting System tools into a single enterprise information management and repository system named Investment Evaluation, Submission, and Tracking (INVEST). According to the department, this effort should improve the reliability of the metrics used by OCIO's Enterprise Business Management Office (EBMO), as well as the other line of business and component program offices, and ensure data integrity. The data reported in INVEST include cost, schedule, and operational performance metrics that are to align with the OMB's Information Technology (IT) Dashboard reporting requirements. In addition, as of September 2017, the program was listed as a high-risk program on the federal IT dashboard, in contrast to its April 2015 rating of medium risk. However, as of August 2017, the program was in breach of its previously approved schedule expectations and was taking a strategic pause in developing new software while working to re-baseline its cost and schedule expectations. We will continue to monitor DHS?s efforts to re-baseline the USCIS Transformation Program and the Office of the Chief Information Officer's efforts to use accurate and reliable information to update the federal IT dashboard until and after a new program baseline is established.
    Director: Kingsbury, Nancy R
    Phone: (202)512-2700

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help correct undercounts, eliminate conceptual problems, and where possible, fill gaps for information on immigration flow, the Commissioner of INS should: (1) evaluate and, where feasible, improve data on flow; and (2) utilize an effective information typology (either the one put forward in table 2.1 of this report or an alternative designed by INS) to clearly distinguish different demographic concepts and to determine which statistics can fairly be compared to others.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Office of the Secretary
    Status: Open

    Comments: On September 5, 2017, GAO called the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Immigration Statistics, and discussed this open recommendation. The Deputy Assistant Secretary said that in response to the February 6, 2017, e-mail and a brief personal discussion with GAO during a Migration Policy Institute conference in August 2017, he had assigned a staff member to complete work on the typology, but that the staff member was one of several who were temporarily reassigned to work in Houston as a consequence of Hurricane Harvey, and for that reason work on the typology would be delayed. He said DHS would like to have this typology completed and published before the end of 2017, but could not guarantee that, and said that it would be completed. On February 6, 2017, GAO sent an e-mail to the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Immigration Statistics at DHS, which included a PDF of the typology GAO created, as well as a PDF of the published report. GAO followed up with a telephone call to the Deputy Assistant Secretary on February 24, 2017, and noted the former Director of the Office of Immigration Statistics had been working on adding some categories to the typology and planned on completing those and publishing it. The Deputy Assistant Secretary said he agreed that doing the typology and publishing it is important, and that he would be addressing it in the near future. On June 1, 2016, the Special Assistant for the Office of Policy at the Department of Homeland Security told GAO that it has initiated an examination of this recommendation to determine how it might be closed. When the typology is published and utilized, this recommendation will be closed.