DHS still faces hurdles tracking visitor exits by land

The Homeland Security Department faces major challenges tracking whether foreign visitors leave the United States, witnesses told members of the House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing Tuesday.

The difficulties are particularly acute for visitors departing through land exits, said Richard Stana, director of homeland security issues at the Government Accountability Office. "Interstate highways may have to be rerouted" to verify land exits, he said.

The effort is part of the US VISIT program to track entrances and exits to the United States -- the latter of which have proved more difficult. At land exits, the process of verifying biometric data has the potential to create major traffic backups.

Stana said airports and seaports likely have sufficient infrastructure in place to track departures.

Robert Mocny, who serves as US VISIT's acting director, told the committee that DHS will be ready to verify exits by air and sea this year. But it could take up to five years to install biometric traveler exit verification equipment at land ports, he said.

"We're going to wait for the technology to catch up to us," Mocny said. "The exit portion is something we have to work on." There is no target date for when that part of the program will be finished.

According to Stana, the ground-based exit verification component of the US VISIT program is nowhere near completion. Of the pilot programs the agency has conducted, "none… was particularly effective," he said.

Mocny emphasized that many phases of the program have been completed.

But lawmakers were still critical.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the committee, said US VISIT directors "shifted… the intent of the program" and "lowered the status." He also expressed disapproval that the program has only an acting director.

"You need to put people in place to get the job done," Thompson said.

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:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


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