Administration needs more time on e-passport rollout, DHS official says

Technology problems will compel the Bush administration to ask Congress for another extension of the deadline for rolling out electronic passports, a senior Homeland Security Department official told a Senate subcommittee last week.

'We are dealing with new technology here, putting readers at all ports of entry that can recognize documents from several countries,' said Elaine Dezenski, acting assistant secretary for border and transportation security policy and planning.

Additionally, there is the problem of other countries' manufacturing and distributing electronic passports, Dezenski said. Only two countries, which she declined to name, have completely adopted them.

Congress already bumped the deadline to October 2005, from October 2004. 'I think it is going to be difficult to make the October deadline,' she said. 'It will more likely be sometime in 2006.'

Dezenski's testimony'before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittees on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship and Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security'came on the heels of statements from State Department officials that the project could miss its deadline again.

So far, however, the administration has not asked Congress to extend the deadline for the project, an effort of DHS, State and the General Services Administration.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), visibly agitated by the prospect of a further delay, said, 'My view is that we ought to know who is coming into the country and when they leave.'

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