Renamed Entry Exit system gathers steam, Ridge says

The Homeland Security Department has renamed its system for tracking persons crossing the border the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology system, or US Visit, and plans to begin contracting for the system shortly, secretary Tom Ridge said today.

"US Visit will be in its first phase of operation at international air and sea ports of entry by the end of 2003," Ridge told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington this afternoon.

"This system will be capable of using information, coupled with biometric identifiers such as photographs, fingerprints or iris scans, to create an electronic check-in/check-out system for people who come to the United States to work, stay or visit," Ridge said. "US Visit will also provide a tool to U.S. law enforcement to find those visitors who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas."

Ridge said, "Rather remarkably, a quarter century ago, the U.S. stopped asking international visitors to register with the authorities." He said the US Visit system would help monitor the more than 35 million people who visit the country annually.

An HSD spokeswoman confirmed that US Visit is the renamed Entry Exit system, which has been in planning stages for many months. After his speech, Ridge said he expects HSD to issue the request for proposals for the US Visit system within the next 45 to 60 days.

Ridge also said he met with President Bush today for a briefing about the Terrorist Threat Information Center, a new interagency organization that will coordinate threat intelligence.

Bush today appointed Air Force Gen. John Gordon to be the White House homeland security adviser. Gordon will succeed Ridge in the job of running the White House Homeland Security Office.

Gordon is a former deputy CIA director who worked on the National Security Council staff in President George H.W. Bush's administration.

"We reviewed how the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security Department will work together" through the TTIC, Ridge said.

During a question-and-answer session, Ridge said the homeland department's management flexibility authority would help it weave together the department's IT infrastructure. Ridge said "the glass is half full" as far as creating a complete information backbone for the department but that the job would be "a monstrous task."

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