Homeland Security:

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.

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David A. Powner
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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.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    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

    Status: Open

    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 DHS's entry and exit policies and operations, including developing and maintaining the integrated master schedule for the department's biometric exit program. Since our report was issued in November 2009, DHS has been unable to report any progress in developing the recommended master schedule. However, as of August 2013, CBP has begun drafting a master schedule for biographic and biometric exit solutions. According to a CBP official from the Office of Internal Affairs, the schedule is not yet complete because more specific exit projects are still being defined. The CBP official further stated that as these projects become further defined, related activities will be added to the schedule, along with estimated durations and related resources, and that the schedule is expected to fully meet scheduling best practices, as described in our report. We will continue to monitor the department's progress in implementing our recommendation.

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