US-VISIT: Sizing up a challenge

The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program will bring the latest biometric technology to one of the most visible homeland security programs. Officials are expected to issue the request for proposals (RFP) for the border security project in September.

US-VISIT's complexity and high profile have compelled prospective bidders to rethink teaming philosophies, according to Ben Gianni, vice president of homeland security at Computer Sciences Corp.

To assemble a team with the proper breadth and depth, CSC is teaming with longtime integration rival EDS. "We have to put the competitive industry situation aside," Gianni said. Other teammates include Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, ARINC Inc. and Bechtel National Inc.

Teaming can be dicey, however, particularly for product suppliers, because the U.S. VISIT procurement approach has shifted during the past few months. Officials at the Homeland Security Department first considered letting vendors pitch their own ideas, but later balked at the challenge of evaluating a wide range proposals, sources say. Officials plan to be more specific in the upcoming RFP.

Still, some vendors are being cautious. Identix Inc., which provides fingerprint and facial biometric technologies, is closely following the U.S. VISIT procurement, but hasn't signed up with any team. "All the teaming arrangements are a little bit vague because people don't know what [the RFP] is going to require," said Joseph Atick, president and chief executive officer of Identix. "Everybody is leaving options open right now."

Atick believes US-VISIT will establish a new climate for biometric technology. The industry "has been looking forward to the type of project that is going to give strong validation to the concept of biometrics," he said. "This is it."

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