Homeland Security: Prospects For Biometric US-VISIT Exit Capability Remain Unclear Page: 2 of 16
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Highlights of GAO-07-1044T, a report to
Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and
Global Counterterrorism, Committee on
Homeland Security, House of
Why GAO Did This Study
The Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) has spent and
continues to invest hundreds of
millions of dollars each year in its
U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status
Indicator Technology (US-VISIT)
program to collect, maintain, and
share information on selected
foreign nationals who enter and
exit the United States at over 300
air, sea, and land ports of entry
(POEs). The program uses
biometric identifiers (digital finger
scans and photographs) to screen
people against watch lists and to
verify that a visitor is the person
who was issued a visa or other
GAO's testimony addresses the
status of US-VISIT entry and exit
capabilities and DHS's
management of past and future exit
efforts. In developing its testimony,
GAO drew from eight prior reports
on US-VISIT as well as ongoing
work for the committee.
In light of the department's
longstanding challenges in
delivering an operational exit
capability and the uncertainty
surrounding its future exit efforts,
GAO urges the department to
approach its latest attempt at
deploying mission critical exit
capabilities with the kind of rigor
and discipline that GAO has
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Randy Hite at
(202) 512-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Rich
Stana at (202) 512-8777 or stanar@ gao.gov.
Prospects for US-VISIT Biometric Exit
Capability Remain Unclear
What GAO Found
After investing about $1.3 billion over 4 years, DHS has delivered essentially
one-half of US-VISIT, meaning that biometrically enabled entry capabilities
are operating at almost 300 air, sea, and land POEs but comparable exit
capabilities are not. To the department's credit, operational entry
capabilities have reportedly produced results, including more than 1,500
people having adverse actions, such as denial of entry, taken against them.
However, DHS still does not have the other half of US-VISIT (an operational
exit capability) despite the fact that its funding plans have allocated about
one-quarter of a billion dollars since 2003 to exit-related efforts. During this
time, GAO has continued to cite weaknesses in how DHS is managing
US-VISIT in general, and the exit side of US-VISIT in particular, and has
made numerous recommendations aimed at better ensuring that the program
delivers clearly defined and adequately justified capabilities and benefits on
time and within budget.
The prospects for successfully delivering an operational exit solution are as
uncertain today as they were 4 years ago. The department's latest available
documentation indicates that little has changed in how DHS is approaching
its definition and justification of future US-VISIT exit efforts. Specifically,
DHS has indicated that it intends to spend $27.3 million ($7.3 million in fiscal
year 2007 funding and $20 million in fiscal year 2006 carryover funding) on
air and sea exit capabilities. However, it has not produced either plans or
analyses that adequately define and justify how it intends to invest these
funds. Rather, it has only described in general terms near-term deployment
plans for biometric exit capabilities at air and sea POEs, and acknowledged
that a near-term biometric solution for land POEs is not possible. Beyond
this high-level schedule, no other exit program plans are available that define
what will be done by what entities and at what cost.
In the absence of more detailed plans and justification governing its exit
intentions, it is unlikely that the department's latest efforts to deliver
near-term air and sea exit capabilities will produce results different from the
past. Therefore, the prospects for having operational exit capabilities
continue to be unclear. Moreover, the longer the department goes without
exit capabilities, the more its ability to effectively and efficiently perform its
border security and immigration enforcement missions will suffer. Among
other things, this means that DHS cannot ensure the integrity of the
immigration system by identifying and removing those people who have
overstayed their original period of admission, which is a stated goal of US-
VISIT. Further, DHS immigration and customs enforcement entities will
continue to spend limited resources on investigating potential visa violators
who have already left the country.
United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Homeland Security: Prospects For Biometric US-VISIT Exit Capability Remain Unclear, text, June 28, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc294415/m1/2/: accessed January 16, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.