Another year, another list of missed biometrics recommendations at DHS
U.S. Congress’ primary watchdog agency is nudging the Department of Homeland Security to get moving on some important biometrics-related recommendations the agency has made.
The Government Accountability Office late last month compiled a list of unresolved priority recommendations to the DHS as a whole that GAO staff had updated last year.
DHS officials have a significantly better record of addressing GAO issues than the government-wide average, according to the report. The watchdog’s agenda is wide and deep, looking for areas where spending, operations and staffing could be more efficient.
That is to say, these reports, which are published periodically, can be a policy wonk’s Friday night out.
Among six areas deemed problematic by GAO staff last year, two get a spotlight again this year.
They want the DHS to take better care to track and monitor all of the ongoing costs of modernizing the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology, or HART, program. That is the department’s uninspiring biometric ID management system.
In a passage that might make some in DHS wistful for how many times they have seen it, GAO officials want their government colleagues too “limit further schedule delays and cost overruns for modernizing” the legacy biometric system, IDENT, which HART is supposed to replace. To drive the point home, the report notes that IDENT is 29 years old.
Just as important for the department’s multiple biometrics programs is its need to define senior privacy-protections official in the DHS. There apparently is a lack of focus for the person reviewing safeguards in systems.
There was a pat on the back for DHS, however.
GAO staff said their recommendation to improve the bidirectional traceability of HART systems requirements was followed. Bidirectional traceability – between higher- and lower-level system requirements – makes it more likely that the government is making systems that better address their intended uses, they wrote
Overall, according to the report, DHS has implemented 85 percent of GAO recommendations. Across the federal government, the rate is 77 percent.