THE MAGAZINE

Management of US-VISIT Evaluated

By Marta Lawrence

Key actions have not yet been taken to improve the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, says a recently released report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Although the GAO says the programs are improving, progress has been slow, and many measures have not yet been implemented.

US-VISIT calls for various measures, such as digital photos and biometrics, to ensure that persons entering the U.S. are correctly identified and not on watch lists. In August 2005, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began a test of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology at five land border ports of entry with Canada and Mexico to record the entry and exit of visitors required to enroll in the US-VISIT program. The test is expected to continue until spring 2006.

Additionally, DHS began requiring ten-finger scans for all first-time visitors to the United States last July. Subsequent entries and exits at air, sea, and land border ports will require two-finger scans of travelers for verification.

Despite these efforts, GAO, in its review of the program, made several recommendations for needed improvements. DHS has fully implemented only two of the 18 priority recommendations—the department has defined program staff positions, roles, and responsibilities, and it has hired an independent verification and validation contractor.

Many of the other recommendations are either in the beginning implementation stages or are only partially implemented. In previous reports, the GAO noted that “system testing was not based on well-defined test plans” and it recommended that before testing begins, “the program develop and approve test plans meeting certain criteria.”

Although the test plans created by DHS did cover many of the GAO required areas, they “did not adequately trace between test cases and the requirements to be verified by testing.” According to the GAO, this increases the risk that the deployed system will not perform as intended.

Other recommendations not implemented include assessment of security risks and planning for cost-effective controls to address risks, determining whether each increment will produce mission value commensurate with cost and risk, and ensuring that each increment of the program is adequately tested. “The longer that US-VISIT takes to implement recommendations, the greater the risk that the program will not meet its stated goals on time and within budget,” the report says.

@ For a copy of the full report go to SM Online.

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