U.S. Visit hires expert eyes

U.S. Visit hires expert eyes

Sometimes there's no substitute for a pair of human eyes in biometric identification.

The Homeland Security Department's U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator System program office this week awarded a five-year, $25 million contract to DigitalNet Inc. of Herndon, Va., to provide expert fingerprint analysis.

The company will send 56 people for 45 full-time-equivalent positions at the Western Identification Network in San Diego and the Biometrics Support Center in Washington.

The two centers do automated matching of fingerprints from persons entering the country against watch-list prints in the DHS Automated Biometric Identification database.

Usually it takes only seconds to determine whether there is a positive match. But about 8 percent of the time, the software can't decide and a human being takes over, said Danny Greathouse, DigitalNet's program manager.

'We have to be able to do that analysis within 10 minutes of receipt,' Greathouse said. 'We're doing it in about three minutes.'

Analysts see the scanned index finger print along with a candidate print or two from the database that partially match.

'We say 'yes,' 'no' or 'unverifiable because of legibility,' ' Greathouse said.

DigitalNet won the analysis contract for the San Diego center about five years ago and got the Washington contract when that center opened about 18 months ago. The two were recently recompeted as a single contract.

The company draws on different pools of expertise on the East and West coasts for its examiners, Greathouse said. On the East Coast, 'Most have retired from the FBI after a career in fingerprint identification,' he said.

On the West Coast, DigitalNet hires from a younger pool of experts who have worked in local or state law enforcement agencies.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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