Years after the U.S. launched an automated Homeland Security system essential to keeping the nation safe, it’s a malfunctioning flop that’s so far swallowed a mind-boggling $1.7 billion and needs an additional billion and several more years to perhaps get it to work. That’s not even the best part. A number of federal audits have documented the serious problems with this costly failure in the last few years and officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have simply ignored the government investigators’ findings and recommendations.
The program is known as Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) and was launched by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS agency that oversees lawful immigration to the country, in 2012. It was supposed to improve the current method of processing forms for benefits, visas and refugee requests at USCIS, which has more than 5 million people on visa waiting lists. In its latest report highlighting the serious flaws with ELIS, the DHS Inspector General attaches a letter to USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez blasting his agency for blowing off all of the watchdog’s past investigations. “This is our sixth review of a deeply troubled program which has, over its life, wasted hundreds of millions of dollars,” DHS IG John Roth tells Rodriguez. “In the course of our audit work, and that of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), USCIS has continually minimized the shortcomings of the program and resisted independent oversight.”
In fact, the agency watchdog writes that he’s “perplexed at USCIS’s non-concurrence,” which he points out is not rational, is contrary to department policy and suggests continued effort to promote disagreement rather than collaboration towards the shared goal of bolstering effectiveness and efficiency in agency operations. Despite this blatant negligence, the cash hasn’t stopped rolling and now DHS claims it needs another three years and an additional $1 billion if there’s any chance of getting ELIS to work properly. In its current form, the automated system “lacks critical functionality,” isn’t “user-friendly,” and has “significant performance problems” processing cases, according to investigators. Until the agency makes all the needed improvements-and there are many-it will be unable to meet its national security goals, the IG report affirms.