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Highlights

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established a program--the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT)--to collect, maintain, and share information, including biometric identifiers, on selected foreign nationals who travel to the United States. By congressional mandate, DHS is to develop and submit for approval an expenditure plan for US-VISIT that satisfies certain conditions, including being reviewed by GAO. Among other things, GAO was asked to determine whether the plan satisfied these conditions and to provide observations on the plan and DHS's program management.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security To better ensure that the US-VISIT program is worthy of investment and is managed effectively, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security to ensure that the USVISIT program director fully and explicitly discloses in all future expenditure plans how well DHS is progressing against the commitments that it made in prior expenditure plans.
Closed - Implemented
US-VISIT's fiscal year 2007, 2008, and 2009 expenditure plans describe progress against the commitments made in previous annual expenditure plans. For example, the 2009 plan describes how key systems actually performed against performance targets cited in the fiscal year 2008 plan. Moreover, the 2009 plan establishes a basis for continued reporting of progress against commitments by setting 2009 performance goals for a range of program outcomes.
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security To better ensure that the US-VISIT program is worthy of investment and is managed effectively, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security to ensure that the USVISIT program director reassesses its plans for deploying an exit capability to ensure that the scope of the exit pilot provides for adequate evaluation of alternative solutions and better ensures that the exit solution selected is in the best interest of the program.
Closed - Implemented
The fiscal year 2008 expenditure plan states that DHS reassessed its exit plans, describes a new strategy for deploying biometric exit capabilities at air and sea ports of entry (POEs), and notes the absence of near-term biometric options for land POEs. DHS has also shut down the exit pilots (and demonstration projects) that this recommendation was intended to address.
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security To better ensure that the US-VISIT program is worthy of investment and is managed effectively, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security to ensure that the USVISIT program director develops and implements processes for managing the capacity of the USVISIT system.
Closed - Implemented
The US-VISIT program has developed a capacity management handbook that provides guidance for managing system capacity and has incorporated activities for complying with this guidance into its US-VISIT Delivery Method. Moreover, it has begun to implement this new guidance. For example, it has developed business and service capability baselines for its one of its key systems known as IDENT.
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security To better ensure that the US-VISIT program is worthy of investment and is managed effectively, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security to ensure that the USVISIT program director follows effective practices for estimating the costs of future increments.
Closed - Implemented
The US-VISIT program office has ongoing and planned actions to address this recommendation. Specifically, program officials reported that they are updating the US-VISIT Cost Estimation and Analysis Process to reflect GAO's recently-issued Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide (GAO-09-3SP), and they plan to hire a contractor in late 2009 to train program office staff on GAO's guide. Once these actions are completed, the program office should be positioned to follow effective cost estimating practices for future increments.
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security To better ensure that the US-VISIT program is worthy of investment and is managed effectively, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security to ensure that the USVISIT program director makes understanding the relationships and dependencies between the US-VISIT and ACE programs a priority matter, and reports periodically to the Under Secretary on progress in doing so.
Closed - Implemented
DHS and the US-VISIT program office have taken steps to address this recommendation. Specifically, US-VISIT has been working with the DHS Screening and Coordination Office to, among other priorities, develop a greater understanding between US-VISIT and other programs, including ACE, about their relationships and dependencies. Further, because the US-VISIT program is no longer organizationally within the Office of the Under Secretary, reporting on progress to the Under Secretary is no longer a relevant aspect of the recommendation. Instead, the Screening and Coordination Office, which reports directly to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, is involved in and thus aware of progress in this area.

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