10-fingerprint scans to start at Dulles airport

The Homeland Security Department plans to require foreign visitors to submit to scans of all 10 fingerprints starting Nov. 29 at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, department officials said Nov. 20.

Under the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, foreigners visiting the United States on visas currently must have a digital photograph and scans of their two index fingers taken. DHS has built a database of 90 million fingerprints in the four years since the program began.

Robert Mocny, director of the US-VISIT program, told journalists Nov. 20 at the Foreign Press Center in Washington that the department will now begin expanding to 10-finger scans, which has been in the planning stages for several years.

The new requirement is gradually taking effect at U.S. airports and at land and sea border crossings, with the goal of being fully operational by the end of 2008, according to press reports of the briefing, which was only open to foreign journalists.

Officials in the Bush administration have said the purpose of scanning more fingers is to increase accuracy and reduce false matches. But there are concerns about the greater length of time needed to scan 10 fingers.

DHS has proposed substantial funding for the 10-fingerprint system. In the White House budget request for fiscal 2008, which Congress approved, US-VISIT would increase its funding to $462 million -- $99 million more than last year -- to support the expanded fingerprint scans.

Much of the new funding will go to information technology contractors that provide goods and services such as scanners, biometric storage, and integration and networking services.

Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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