US-VISIT requirements outlined

Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT fact sheet

The prime integrator for an entry/exit system should present a practical solution with a sound business case, Homeland Security Department officials told industry representatives today.

In anticipation of a request for proposals to be released in November for a prime integrator for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology (US-VISIT) system, officials outlined what they expected from bidders and asked for their insight.

"I really envision this as a partnership every step of the way, a seat at the table," US-VISIT director Jim Williams said at an industry day conference. "We want the prime integrator to play a key role with every aspect."

Williams said they are planning to release the RFP by Nov. 30, receive proposals in January 2004 and award the contract in May 2004. The prime integrator will have a hand in each step of the development of the entry/exit system, from program management to the transition and deployment phases.

Although DHS officials presented the scope of the project and the aggressive deadlines, they asked vendors to draw on their expertise to present solutions for immediate implementation. Officials are looking to build strong partnerships with the private sector, including sharing accountability for the system.

"We want the prime integrator to have shared mission accountability," Williams said. "Our careers are being judged by this, and I would like to see the same thing on the industry side."

The first deadline toward implementation of the US-VISIT system is Dec. 31, 2003, when foreign visitors flying into major airports or arriving at the nation's largest seaports must have biometric identifiers — fingerprint technology and photographs — attached to their visas. To meet this first phase, DHS officials are leveraging existing programs and linking existing databases.

By Oct. 26, 2004, all newly issued visitor documents should include biometric technology, and by Dec. 31, 2004, officials expect US-VISIT to be implemented at the 50 largest land ports in the country. At the end of 2005, the system is slated to be implemented in the remaining land ports.

US-VISIT has been appropriated at $380 million for fiscal 2003, $5 million of which was released to build an expenditure plan. Officials asked for an additional $47.5 million of that money to be released for development of more immediate projects. That money was granted July 7, Williams said, and will be used for buying equipment, such as fingerprint matchers, and system development. The General Accounting Office is reviewing the expenditure plan for the remaining funds, and Williams said he expects to see the funds in the next couple of weeks.

DHS' acquisition strategy includes open communication with industry throughout the process. Williams said they would like to hold meetings with the prime bidders before the RFP is released.

Potential qualifications for a prime integrator include experience with border management, experience on large information technology integration projects and success with high-volume, performance-based applications, Williams said.

"This is one of the nation's greatest challenges, and we really want to partner with you all," Williams said.

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