Fingerprint systems integration lagging

Status of IDENT/IAFIS Integration

The integration of fingerprint databases has fallen behind schedule, creating continued risks to national security, according to a Justice Department Inspector General report released last month.

For several years, Justice has been merging the IDENT system from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). In 1999, the Justice Management Division was assigned to lead the efforts.

The integration project has fallen a year behind schedule, after already falling behind in December 2001, the IG report said. Further delays are possible because the Justice Management Division did not develop a transition plan for when INS moved to the Homeland Security Department.

"As of April 2003, the integration project was at least two years behind schedule," the report stated.

Division officials told the IG that the latest delay occurred because contractors and INS staff members working on the integration were redirected in June 2002 to work on the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System. The department has not revised the IDENT/IAFIS project schedule, so the IG was unable to determine a completion date.

"However, we found the final completion probably will be delayed from the original fiscal year 2007 date because [the Justice Management Division's fiscal] 2004 budget plans indicate they intend to continue funding the project in fiscal 2008 and beyond," the report stated.

Although the integration has been delayed, DHS has made enhancements to IDENT by adding records from IAFIS, the IG said. The INS and the FBI entered more than 150,000 National Crime Information Center records on individuals who were likely to be aliens, which led to the apprehension of thousands of people wanted for serious crimes, according to the report.

These improvements demonstrated the value of an integrated system, the report stated.

"Given the proven benefits afforded by an integrated fingerprint system, the slow progress of the integration project represents an unacceptable risk to public safety and national security," the report stated.

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