FBI fingerprint system runs without a hitch

FBI fingerprint system runs without a hitch

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Make no mistake: Building the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System was no easy task for the FBI.

During the past eight years, delays and cost overruns troubled the project and the bureau revised its design more than once. But since the FBI brought the system up in the wee hours of July 28, IAFIS has worked perfectly.

The crew running IAFIS feels as if it needs to report a mishap because no one believes the system is running without any glitches, said James J. Jasinski, IAFIS program manager. The system is providing 90 percent of the functions of which IAFIS is capable. The bureau will ramp up the additional functions by year's end.

'The system has not been down for one second' since it came online, Jasinski said. The $640 million IAFIS has processed 90 percent of its 149,185 10-fingerprint requests within two hours, he said a week after the implementation. The process previously took up to 11 days.

Congress mandated that the new fingerprint identification system be able to process at least 62,500 10-fingerprint searches a day. In tests, IAFIS did more than 85,000 searches a day, Jasinski said.

The system is interoperable with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, National Criminal Information Center 2000 and National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.

IAFIS has a big footprint. In addition to the systems housing the IAFIS data and application software, the fingerprint specialists at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., use 655 Beta-Class Model B180L Visualize workstations from Hewlett-Packard Co. Clusters of up to 22 workstations are each linked to a pair of HP K-Class Model K460 servers. The asynchronous transfer mode network uses 24-port Cisco Catalyst 5000 switches from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

IAFIS lets law enforcement officials cross-reference fingerprints and criminal histories against federal, state and local law enforcement records. The system also lets officers scan suspects' fingers and transmit the prints to the FBI via the Criminal Justice Information Center WAN.

Early stages

Development of IAFIS' first component began before the FBI issued the initial request for proposals.

Early in planning for the IAFIS project, the FBI studied what it wanted from an automated fingerprint identification system.

The No. 1 concern was compatibility among the systems being used at all levels of government.

'Automated fingerprint identification systems were developed in the 1970s and 1980s,' said Thomas Roberts, IAFIS assistant program manager. 'But the problem was they were all proprietary and incompatible.'

Three companies'NEC Technologies Inc. of Itasca, Ill., Printrak International of Anaheim, Calif., and Sagem Morpho Inc. of Tacoma, Wash.'dominated the field during those two decades, Roberts said.

'So, a city couldn't exchange information at the state level if they had different types of systems,' Roberts said.

The law enforcement community recognized the problem by the late 1980s and requested'through an interagency advisory policy board of 30 federal, state and local law enforcement officials'that the FBI establish a standard for encoding and transmitting fingerprints.

An American national standard was developed between 1990 and 1992 based on the recommendations of vendors, and state and local users. The standard codifies the fingerprinting process, requiring, for example, that agencies digitize fingerprint images at 500 dots per inch with 250 levels of grayscale, Roberts said.

The FBI and IAFIS contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., applied the standard as it designed IAFIS.

During the first phase, Stage A, the IAFIS prototype had limited database of image files, which the original AFIS could search. During Stage B, the bureau added more information to AFIS, Jasinski said.

'We worked with our existing files, working with our latent fingerprint files to give them some capabilities early on within the FBI,' he said.

IAFIS now runs on 26 Hewlett-Packard Convex SPP2000 servers attached to 50 Symbios 3000 RAID storage arrays from LSI Logic Corp. of Milpitas, Calif.

In Stage C, the FBI integrated the Image Transmission Network built by Litton PRC. ITN manages the image index and handles the workflow among the FBI databases as well as provides a communications front end to NCIC 2000 data and for the state links. The bureau runs ITN on HP 239000 K460 servers, with data 19 D-Class Model 210 optical jukebox servers for data storage.

In Stage D, the bureau expanded the number of messages AFIS and ITN could process together. Stage E put AFIS and ITN together with the Interstate Identification Index, developed by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. III is an automated criminal-history record retrieval system.

Lockheed Martin in 1997 began the work of integrating the three systems. During this fifth stage, the FBI began testing the system and checking each component.

Contractors OK

The successful initial operation of IAFIS reveals that the decision to look to outside integrators was sound, Jasinski said.

Stage F, which brought the system online two weeks ago, has brought 90 percent of the system's capabilities to state and local agencies. The final features of the system will be implemented from October to January, Jasinski said.

Completion of the second part of the final stage will let states encode and launch searches from workstations around the country. Fingerprints of government officials and military personnel will also be entered into the AFIS during this final increment.

State and local agencies also will be able to capture a digital mug shot they can submit electronically with the fingerprints.

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