Lockheed Martin grabs $100M fingerprint pact

Lockheed Martin Corp. last week captured a six-year, $109 million contract to develop the core fingerprint-matching software for the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).

The AFIS component—the last big contract to be awarded under the IAFIS program—will allow the FBI to search, analyze and match scanned fingerprints against a database with as many as 40 million sets of 10-print fingerprint files.

Lockheed Martin Information Systems won the contract after an 18-month design competition with TRW Inc. and Unisys Corp. The program was administered by the General Services Administration's Federal Computer Acquisition Center. The FBI declined to comment.

AFIS will revolutionize law enforcement, said Peter Higgins, former deputy assistant for engineering at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Systems Division. Higgins now is president of Higgins & Associates International, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm specializing in automated biometric technology.

Today a fingerprint search takes so long "it is of limited benefit to day-to-day law enforcement," Higgins said. Often, fingerprint searches can take several months, between the time a fingerprint is received and a match is made. "When AFIS comes on-line, they will be able to turn it around in a matter of hours," he said.

The FBI has awarded three other contracts under IAFIS to digitize, store and manage fingerprint images and related information—essentially converting the FBI fingerprint program to a paperless environment. AFIS provides the actual search engine.

AFIS is designed to complete a database search in 15 minutes or less for 10-print files. All together, the IAFIS process—from the time a fingerprint set is submitted electronically to system response—must take two hours or less. The FBI expects to run about 50,000 searches a day.

AFIS also must handle "latent fingerprints," prints not taken directly from individuals but collected as evidence as part of an investigation. In many cases, such prints do not include all 10 fingers and in some cases may include only a partial print. The FBI wants to see results in 24 hours. The FBI needed a contractor to develop software for a system based on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, including hardware, system software and imaging software that will make it easier for the system to evolve.

"That turns out to be not a very easy job because of the complexity [of the software]," said Jerry Zionic, Lockheed Martin's AFIS program manager. "The concern about technology insertion...caused us to do a tremendous amount of fundamental algorithm work," he said.

However, the three bidders did benefit from the evolution of COTS hardware and software technology over the last several years, in which system vendors have continually leap-frogged each other in performance and price/performance, he said. Lockheed Martin's proposal revolves around scalable parallel processing.

"What we tried to do is get into a family of machines where we could see three generations down to what leap-frogging there was going to be," Zionic said.

A TRW spokeswoman said the company was disappointed in the award decision.

Unisys could not be reached for comment last week.

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Allan Holmes contributed to this article.

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