Inefficient online immigration application tracker is BILLIONS over budget

According to a Government Accountability Office blog post published Tuesday, the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS), a project of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) designed to “create, manage and track” immigration applications, has been delayed for nearly a decade and is a whopping $3.1 billion over budget:

So far, the “program has cost a lot, but delivered little,” the post said. “USCIS manages millions of applications using a complex and inefficient system of electronic and paper records that has been cobbled together over the years.”

The blog post said “for over a decade, USCIS has worked to transform this system into a single, online portal where people can create, manage, and track their applications.”

In 2008, USCIS awarded a $500 million contract for ELIS, with a launch planned for 2012. However, according to a May GAO report, “an overly complex system architecture contributed to cost overruns, schedule delays and performance concerns.” A new launch date was rescheduled in 2011 for June 2014, with a new inflated price tag of $2.1 billion, but problems persisted:

“However, in March 2012, USCIS changed its acquisition approach,” the post said. “Among other things, it moved from a single contractor to many, and shifted to open-source, publicly available software. As a result, the parts of the ELIS system that were already released have to be rebuilt.”

USCIS awarded new contracts, but didn’t update cost estimates, the schedule or ELIS’s expected capabilities, “even though it was clear that its initial plan no longer worked,” the post said. GAO estimated that the changes caused more delays and added another $1 billion to the project’s cost.

USCIS now doesn’t expect ELIS to be completed until March 2019. The Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of USCIS, has said it “will continue to examine the transformation program and its implementation to help ensure that USCIS’s modernized immigration system is better than what came before.”