Report: U.S. Visit needs database integration to succeed

The Homeland Security Department is hampered in its efforts to verify the identities of visitors at U.S. borders by the need to check with multiple database systems, the department's Inspector General Richard Skinner said in a new report.

"The time-consuming process that the Customs and Border Protection officers must use to query multiple database systems to verify travelers' identities and identify potential criminals and terrorists is particularly problematic at land points of entry, because of the limited time available to conduct the queries," the report said.

Multiple databases need to be integrated so Customs and Border Protection officers at land points of entry validate the identity of visitors trying to enter the United States, the inspector general's report said.

The department's biometric identity verification program, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S. Visit), begun Dec. 31, 2004, initially will enroll about 2.7 percent of the foreign visitors entering the United States at land points of entry, the report said.

Noting that U.S. Visit is "evolving rapidly," the report said it would issue no recommendations to enhance the program's implementation, because such advice would be "short-lived or premature."

However, the inspector general highlighted several areas that "could inhibit the program's effectiveness if not addressed."

In addition to the need for integration of databases, Skinner expressed concern about the small percentage of visitors to be enrolled in U.S. Visit and the large number of exempt visitors. The report advises that visitors from Visa Waiver Program countries remain enrolled in U.S. Visit until the technologies for verifying their passports are integrated.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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