Border SecurityModernizing DHS border enforcement systems may cost more than $1.5 billion

Published 10 January 2014

TECS is the primary DHS system that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel use to screen foreigners against a variety of watchlists, and it manages case files for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE assignments tracked include money-laundering probes, online pornography investigations, and phone data analyses. A GAO audit last month found that the planned $1.5 billion upgrade to TECS now has no foreseeable end-date or final cost estimate.

DHS’s border enforcement system, known as TECS, is the primary system available for determining admissibility of persons to the United States. It is used to prevent terrorism, and provide border security and law enforcement, case management, and intelligence functions for multiple federal, state, and local agencies. It has become increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain because of technology obsolescence and its inability to support new mission requirements. Accordingly, in 2008, DHS began an effort to modernize the system. It is being managed as two separate programs working in parallel by CBP and ICE.

GAO’s objectives in examining TECS were to (1) determine the scope and status of the two TECS Mod programs; (2) assess selected CBP and ICE program management practices for TECS Mod; and (3) assess the extent to which DHS is executing effective executive oversight and governance of the two TECS Mod programs.

To do so, GAO reviewed requirements documents and cost and schedule estimates, and determined the current scope, completion dates, and life cycle expenditures. GAO also reviewed risk management and requirements management plans, as well as governance bodies’ meeting minutes.

What GAO found
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has defined the scope for its TECS (not an acronym) modernization (TECS Mod) program, but a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the agency’s schedule and cost continue to change, while another agency — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — is overhauling the scope, schedule, and cost of its program after discovering that its initial solution is not technically viable.

CBP’s $724 million program intends to modernize the functionality, data, and aging infrastructure of legacy TECS and move it to DHS’s data centers. CBP plans to develop, deploy, and implement these capabilities between 2008 and 2015.

GAO report notes that to date, CBP has deployed functionality to improve its secondary inspection processes to air and sea ports of entry and, more recently, to land ports of entry in 2013. CBP, however, is in the process of revising its schedule baseline for the second time in under a year. Further, portions of CBP’s schedule remain undefined and the program does not have a fully developed master schedule. These factors increase the risk of CBP not delivering TECS Mod by its 2015 deadline.