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.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

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