DHS improves foreign student tracking program, according to GAO

The Homeland Security Department has taken many effective steps to improve the web-based Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, according to a new General Accounting Office report.

The agency has successfully streamlined the process of collecting and recording information on foreign student and exchange visitors, the watchdog agency said in its report (GAO-04-690). Several key improvements were the increased staffing and training of the Help Desk, the use of new software, and regular meetings being held within the department and with educational representatives.

Indicators such as system availability, response time, capacity, and resource usage showed that requirements are being met, the report indicated. But not only are key performance requirements being met, requests for systems changes are declining and "officials representing educational organizations generally see performance as having improved," it went on.

Between January and June 2003, more than 20 critical and high-priority system change requests were reported in a six-week period. However, between June and December 2003 only two were filed. This dramatic decline shows the effectiveness of the initial changes, GAO said.

User feedback shows many of the early problems--user access, system timeouts and data merging--that plagued SEVIS no longer occur. Representatives from educational organizations told GAO that overall program performance has improved, as well as outreach and responsiveness.

Homeland Security officials continue to monitor the program and try to improve the system. The agency plans to continue biweekly internal performance and technical meetings as well as biweekly conference calls with education representatives. The department also has created special e-mail accounts to report user problems, and has user groups testing new changes to SEVIS.

Despite increased staffing, response from the Help Desk continues to be a cause of complaint, the report showed. Homeland Security officials said Help Desk responses are sometimes complicated by difficulty learning from users the exact problem and lack of user computer knowledge. The agency told GAO auditors that they continue to try to improve response time with Help Desk review and training as well as user education.

GAO made four recommendations for further improving the program. They are designed to improve Homeland Security monitoring of key system performance requirements, address educational association performance concerns, and expedite collection of a SEVIS fee to pay for the service.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.