MARCH 03, 2011
The U.S. government is showcasing its proven talent for wasting money and compromising national security in a disastrous project to computerize immigration paperwork.It’s bad enough that the costly Homeland Security initiative is grossly over budget and years behind schedule, it also lacks crucial safeguards to prevent terrorists from slipping into the United States. Essentially the government failed to implement a strategy to protect its yet-to-be-completed automated immigration system from insider threats, according to the Homeland Security Inspector General.Terrorists could manipulate visa and residency forms if measures are not enacted to secure paperwork, the inspector general says in a report. The transformation program aims to digitize the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) current paper-based systems for processing foreigner authorizations and visas.The security issues are simply the latest of many to mar the scandal-plagued overhaul, which is supposed to improve workflow, detect fraud, improve customer service and address national security issues. The project is about ten years behind schedule and four times over its original $536 million budget estimate. It was supposed to be completed by 2013, but the latest estimates have pushed that date up to 2022 and the cost has ballooned to $2.2 billion.The delays and exorbitant cost overruns are bad enough but the security lapse is downright contemptible. Under the current model, the biggest threat to the technology systems and data will come from USCIS employees and contractors, according to the inspector general’s findings. “Insiders at USCIS have perpetrated fraud in the past,” the IG points out. “USCIS insiders are capable of granting legal residency or citizenship status to someone who poses a national security to theUnited States.”Investigators enlisted the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie MellonUniversity to conduct the probe. Hundreds of cases were scrutinized throughout the USCIS’s 250 worldwide offices, which employ an army of 18,000 government workers and contractors.
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