Rep. Davis launches U.S. Visit probe

The Homeland Security Department's border systems modernization is receiving renewed congressional scrutiny just as DHS is seeking proposals for the massive overhaul.

Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, sent letters last month to State secretary Colin L. Powell and Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge asking for detailed information about the project to build the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator System.

In a statement released today by the committee, the Virginia Republican said U.S. Visit represents an 'unprecedented task of collecting, storing and accurately accessing vast quantities of biometric records.' Besides specifics about the project's IT plans, Davis also wants to know about coordination between State and Homeland Security and whether U.S. Visit has the potential to hinder commerce and tourism.

Through the project, DHS wants a system that can gather entry and exit information about foreign visitors, monitor each visitor's status, and provide a crosscheck against the government's terrorist watch lists.

'It is my understanding that the initial iteration of the program will essentially be an integration of the Interagency Border Inspection System and INS Automated Biometric Identification systems currently in use,' Davis noted in his letter to Ridge. 'Given the earlier problems with these programs, provide an explanation as to what steps are being taken to ensure that these systems have been improved so as to meet the needs of the new program.'

Davis asked for responses to his questions by Dec. 8.

Meanwhile, within days of receiving Davis' query, DHS issued a request for proposals for a U.S. Visit lead contractor. The department plans to award a contract, potentially worth $10 billion, by May. After an initial review of proposals, the department has asked three vendors to submit final bids: Accenture LLP, Computer Sciences Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. (Click for Sept. 30 GCN story)

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