Skinner: Immigration Services stumbles on IT modernization plan

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency is faltering in carrying out its IT modernization goals, according to a new report from the Homeland Security Department's Inspector General Richard L. Skinner.

For decades, the immigration benefits processing agency has relied on manual entries and paper-based, duplicative records. The inspector general recommended in September 2005 that agency officials develop an IT modernization strategy to improve efficiencies.

Since then, the USCIS has established a Transformation Program Office and a governance plan. In May 2006, the DHS acting chief financial officer authorized $25 million to complete the planning phase.

However, the agency has stumbled in executing the plan, the inspector general wrote.

"Because of repeated changes in focus and direction, USCIS has tended to duplicate previous modernization initiatives and has not demonstrated the ability to execute its planned strategy," the inspector general's report said.

For example, while agency officials had developed an IT modernization strategy in April 2005, it was scrapped in October of that year and replaced with a broader business modernization strategy that did not use all the features of the IT plan, the report said.

In addition, the USCIS attempted, but then dropped, two pilot programs to test improvements in managing H-1b visas and to develop end-to-end electronic processing of immigration benefits.

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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