Senator Chuck Grassley yesterday sent a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas requesting an update on the "Transformation" initiative, a project that was intended to modernize and upgrade existing technology.
Grassley's letter cited a news story that reported the project thus far has a $630 million price tag with little progress on completion. Grassley also wrote to Mayorkas about reports that indicate the upgrades won't be complete until 2022 and at a cost of $2.2 billion.
"It's quite clear that technology upgrades are not a strong suit of the federal government. Time and time again, this has been a problem for federal agencies," Grassley said. "These agencies and contractors need to be held accountable for their use of taxpayer money, especially when there's little or nothing to show for it."
Grassley is familiar with cost overruns and missed deadlines with the federal government's attempts at technology upgrades. For years he's conducted oversight of the long-hampered computer system modernization issues at the FBI and the IRS.
Here is a copy of the text of Grassley's letter to Mayorkas.
February 16, 2011
Via Electronic Transmission
The Honorable Alejandro N. Mayorkas
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
20 Massachusetts Avenue
Washington, DC 20529
Dear Director Mayorkas:
I'm writing to express concern about the failures encountered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) "Transformation" initiative. This initiative was meant to modernize and upgrade existing technology in order to achieve operational efficiency.
According to one news report, over $630 million has been spent on the Transformation program, and the projected completion has been pushed back by almost a decade. The Department of Homeland Security originally scheduled this project to be completed in 2013, but reportedly, USCIS will not complete the task until 2022 at a cost of $2.2 billion dollars. That's a $1.664 billion increase over the original planned cost of $536 million.
I'm concerned that very few improvements have been made since the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported to Congress in 2007 about the Transformation initiative. The GAO and the Inspector General have noted that "efforts to modernize have been unfocused, conducted in an ad hoc and decentralized manner, and in certain instances, duplicative."
In order to gain a complete understanding of the problems inhibiting the USCIS Transformation project, please make the appropriate USCIS officials available to brief members of my staff no later than February 28, 2011. I look forward to your response to the above mentioned request no later than February 22, 2011. If you have any questions on this matter, please call (202) 224-5225. All written responses should be sent in electronic format.
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator