US-VISIT to get biometric exit

Homeland Security Department officials plan to include biometric technology and more airports in the exit part of the visitor tracking system.

Exit systems for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program will be installed at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago this month and added to 11 more airports by September, DHS officials said. Test exit systems are already at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Miami's International Cruise Line Terminal.

Officials want US-VISIT to match visitors' identities with their travel documents and use technology and biometrics -- a digital scan of fingerprints and photos -- to speed up border processing. DHS officials want a flexible system that works with systems of other DHS agencies, port authorities and the travel industry.

When DHS officials launched the first phase of US-VISIT in January, they used biometric entry capabilities at 115 airports and 14 seaports and began testing a biometric departure confirmation system at two locations.

The research firm Input found that federal agencies awarded more than $23 billion in information technology-related prime contracts in the second quarter of 2004, with US-VISIT accounting for much of it. Of the $23 billion, DHS led agency spending with $10.7 billion in contracts. This includes the $10 billion US-VISIT contract award in June.

The Accenture award was briefly contested by some Democratic lawmakers who said the contract should go to firms that do not try to avoid paying taxes by locating overseas. Accenture's parent company is headquartered in the Bermuda.

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Marion Berry (D-Ark.) decried the fairness of the award by offering an amendment to the fiscal 2005 DHS spending bill that would close contracting loopholes that allow corporations based overseas to evade U.S. taxes. But their effort was defeated.

The exit pilot program will end Nov. 30.

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