Vendors say U.S. Visit deadlines are no easy task

Vendors have warned Homeland Security Department officials that the ambitious deadlines for its entry-exit biometrics program will be 'doable, but difficult,' said a senior agency official.

'Vendors are saying it's possible,' said Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary for policy and planning in the Border and Transportation Security directorate of DHS. 'It is an aggressive schedule.'

In current plans for the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology system program, DHS has called for installing biometrics identification technology at all U.S. air and sea ports by the end of this year. The department plans to install the system at the country's 50 largest land entry points by the end of next year and all remaining land entry points by the end of 2005.

DHS is on track to meet the 2003 target but may need more time to implement the system at the 50 largest land entry points'an area that Verdery said needs more review than at air and sea ports.

'It's no secret that the air and sea part of this is no picnic,' Verdery said yesterday at the Smart Cards in Government conference in Arlington, Va. 'But land will be more difficult.'

The challenges in implementing the system go beyond IT, he said. DHS must determine where to install land exit facilities that let Homeland Security workers conduct biometric inspections without creating a backlog of cases or long lines. Implementing such facilities will require a good deal of landscaping and construction work, he said.

'It is our goal to keep backlogs to a minimum,' he said.

DHS will also be on the lookout for companies that can develop enrollment software systems and databases that will store fingerprints and digital photographs of visa applicants.

DHS and the State Department are close to releasing a memorandum of understanding on how to handle entry-exit checks. Verdery said DHS also expects to establish a new Office of International Enforcement within his directorate, and to name a director soon.

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