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GAO Report Finds US-VISIT Management Lacking

By Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 24, 2005; Page A22

An ambitious government initiative designed to keep terrorists from entering the country could waste money and miss deadlines because officials have not adequately managed it, the Government Accountability Office said yesterday.

The report said officials in charge of the US-VISIT program have made some headway, including the hiring of Accenture Ltd., a global management consulting firm, as the lead contractor on the project. But in findings that echo other GAO reports in recent years, the new report said program managers still have not hired enough government employees to run it, have not demonstrated how their computers, networks and databases will work effectively together, and have not sorted out how they will coordinate activities with a huge border screening program run by the agencies in charge of customs.

Only 59 of 115 government positions were filled as of October, and 88 of 117 contractor jobs were filled as of November, the report said.

The program is supposed to create a "virtual border" around the country using technology. It requires foreign visitors to register before they travel to the United States and have their fingerprints checked when they arrive and depart. Officials have estimated the system could cost as much as $10 billion over the next decade.

US-VISIT Director James A. Williams described the overall tenor of the report as "pretty positive," while adding that it "clearly highlighted some of the challenges we face going forward."

"We will make improvements," he said.

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