Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 5, 2007

GAO on Sentinel, US-VISIT, DOS Visas

Filed under: Border Security,Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 5, 2007

GAO just released three studies.  The first reviews FBI’s management of acquiring and implementing Sentinel, which is a program slated to replace and improve upon the FBI’s failed Virtual Case File project.  The Sentinel program is critical to FBI’s need to modernize case management and information sharing obligations.  Think of this as a case of the opposite of the Deepwater project run by Lockheed for the Coast Guard: this GAO report actually focuses on how well the project is going.  For GAO to publish something positive is a rarity.  This report highlights “best practices” used by FBI to implement Sentinel with IBM.  Complete report available here.

sentinel-org-chart.jpg (click thumbnail)

The second study scrutinizes the privacy protection capabilities of the US-VISIT technology.  Intended to track all those people who enter and exit at any of the country’s 285 air, sea, and land ports of entry, US-VISIT is an ambitious undertaking — and a frequent subject of GAO studies.  Given the various sources of information DHS draws upon in order to run US-VISIT, matters pertaining to privacy rank at the top for members of Congress.  This GAO report gets into just this topic, but also weighs in on the information sharing capabilities of US-VISIT to determine if the program does a good enough job of sharing the info that it hoovers with the practioners who need it operationally.  Following is an image from the GAO study that illustrates this range of entities within the US-VISIT orbit.  Complete report available here.

us-visit-diagram.jpg(click thumbnail)

The third study details the challenges faced by the State Department in adjudicating large and growing numbers of visa applications while facilitating the legitimate flow of visitors.  The GAO study starts off with this problem statement: 

DOS has acknowledged that long waits for visas may discourage legitimate travel to the United States, potentially costing the country billions of dollars in economic benefits over time, and adversely influencing foreign citizens’ opinions of our nation. 

This helpful chart below makes the point that we need to be ready for a surge in immigration requests.  Of course, this portends challenges not only for State, but also USCIS.  How DHS plans to manage such a trend is difficult to discern now that immigration reform is off the table this Congress.  It was that legislation that would have provided an avenue for much needed modernization of USCIS capabilities.  Even with the recent increases in fees charged by USCIS, they won’t be able to collect enough to fund technology upgrades that are needed immediately because those fees will take a while to roll in.  Complete report available here.


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1 Comment »

Comment by christina williams

October 21, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

very interesting and complex…thanks for all your hard work on this subject. I am deploying to Kuwait with the 92nd chem co. in the army at the end of Nov. It’s nice to know people like you are looking out for those of us in the armed forces.

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