Homeland Security: Recommendations to Improve Management of Key Border Security Program Need to Be Implemented

GAO-06-296 Published: Feb 14, 2006. Publicly Released: Feb 14, 2006.
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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 entering and exiting the United States. US-VISIT uses these identifiers (digital fingerscans and photographs) to screen persons against watch lists and to verify that a visitor is the person who was issued a visa or other travel document. Visitors are also to confirm their departure by having their visas or passports scanned and undergoing fingerscanning at selected air and sea ports of entry (POE). GAO has made many recommendations to improve the program, all of which DHS has agreed to implement. GAO was asked to report on DHS's progress in responding to 18 of these recommendations.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To recognize both the need to fully assess the impact of US-VISIT entry capabilities on staffing levels and facilities at land POEs, as well as the current operational status of Increment 2B, we are closing our existing recommendation related to assessing the impact of Increment 2B. The DHS Secretary should direct the US-VISIT Program Director to explore alternative means of obtaining an understanding of the full impact of US-VISIT at all land POEs, including its impact on workforce levels and facilities; these alternatives should include surveying the sites that were not part of the previous assessment.
Closed – Not Implemented
DHS has not fully implemented this recommendation. The department has conducted post-implementation studies at those POEs where an entry capability has been deployed, and based on those studies, has taken actions to ensure that POE operations were not negatively impacted. However, in order to appreciate the full impact of US-VISIT at all land ports of entry, DHS must also understand how it will implement a land exit capability. To that end, in November 2008, DHS completed a draft Land Planning Report that, according to US-VISIT officials, describes a strategy for implementing a land POE exit capability. This report is being reviewed by the department and, according to the US-VISIT Program Director, no further work in regards to implementing a land exit solution will be initiated until this strategy is approved. Consequently, US-VISIT has not begun the project planning and analysis that would allow the program to develop a comprehensive understanding of the impact of US-VISIT on land ports of entry. US-VISIT officials felt that pre- and post-implementation site surveys and studies normally conducted during a project's lifecycle, would address the exit-related component of GAO's recommendation, but there is no current plan for when those activities would take place.

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