Program's Lack Of Formal Plan Criticized
Lawmakers said they had
serious doubts the Department of Homeland Security would be able to
implement a border security exit system in airports by the end of
next year as promised.
Robert Mocny, director of the US Visitor and Immigrant Status
Indicator Technology program, told a Congressional hearing Thursday
an exit system requiring airlines to collect departing foreign
passengers' fingerprints should be in place by December 2008.
"I've not seen anything to give me any confidence to show that's
realistic," Randolph Hite, of the Government Accountability Office
told the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global
Counterterrorism. "There's a difference between a goal, and a
schedule that's been defined in a (deliberate) rigorous
US-VISIT identifies people using two fingerprints and a
photograph and is currently in use to monitor who is entering the
US. The program has, so far, processed more than 76 million
visitors and intercepted about 1,800 immigration violators, as well
as people with criminal records.
But the part intended to track foreign citizens leaving the
country isn't working out so well, according to the Associated
Press. The system has been consumed by oversight and technical
James May, president and chief executive of the Air Transport
Association, didn't think the implementation timeline feasible,
either. He believes the government should be the ones collecting
"At the end of the day, it's
a law enforcement function," May (right) said.
Lawmakers also criticized the program's lack of a formal plan
when $250 has been spent on it already.
"I won't say it's not a challenge," Mocny said. But with $32
million available for the biometric exit system and the fact that
airlines do "inherently governmental" work anyway, like checking
passports, he's confident the goal will be met.
Congress has funneled $1.7 billion to the program since 2003
when they mandated, as ANN reported, an automated
entry-exit program be implemented at the 50 busiest land ports of
entry in an effort to keep terrorists from entering the
It is currently in place at 116 airports, 15 seaports and 154
land ports of entry. The biometric exit system has been tested
through trials at 12 airports and two seaports, said the AP.
Reportedly, none of the $462 million current funding request for
the program for 2008 is marked for the exit system itself.
Mocny said any future funding requests will be based on the
airline's portion of costs.