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Friday, February 7, 2014

GAO: DHS Mismanaging Upgrades to ‘Vital’ Border Enforcement System -- Border security database cannot ‘match names from foreign alphabets’ -- By Elizabeth Harrington, The Washington Free Beacon

Border Patrol agents in McAllen, Texas / APThe Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is mismanaging an upgrade to its vital border security computer database that tracks who is eligible to enter the United States, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO’s Director of Information Technology Management Issues David A. Powner testified before a House homeland security subcommittee on Thursday, regarding millions in waste and failures by DHS to meet deadlines for upgrading its primary border enforcement system.

TECS is the DHS system responsible for “sharing information about people who are inadmissible or may pose a threat to the security of the United States.” The program has been used since the 1980s to prevent terrorism and provide border security, but currently relies on “obsolete technology” that cannot “match names from foreign alphabets.”

DHS began modernizing the database in 2008, with plans to complete its upgrades by September 2015. Management failures, however, make it unlikely that deadline will be met.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are each responsible for separate TECS enhancements, though neither have had much success.

ICE has “operated without requirements management guidance for years,” and is in “serious jeopardy of not meeting the 2015 deadline,” while CBP cannot “effectively manage work activities or monitor the program’s progress.”

“After spending nearly a quarter billion dollars and over 4 years on its two TECS Mod programs, it remains unclear when DHS will deliver them and at what cost,” Powner said.

CBP has only delivered one of five major projects it has been tasked with, and has not fully developed a master schedule necessary for oversight. ICE wasted $19 million creating a system that was riddled with IT problems, before deciding to “scrap” it and start over.

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