Two biometric systems being tested

Controversry over airlines' role slows process

Homeland Security Department officials hope tests for collecting biometric information from non-U.S. air travelers as they leave the country will help resolve a protracted struggle over how to use information technology to track foreign citizens leaving the United States.

The government has gathered fingerprints from foreign visitors as they enter the country since 2004 under the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program. However, establishing the congressionally mandated companion exit system has been more difficult because of funding disagreements and logistical complexities.

On May 28, DHS officials started two test projects in which government officials collect the necessary data from travelers leaving the United States at airports in Atlanta and Detroit. The tests are expected to last 35 days.

For more than a year, DHS and the organizations that represent the airline industry have been at odds over the Bush administration's proposal that airlines, rather than government employees, collect biometric information from travelers for the exit program. The Atlanta and Detroit tests do not include any scenario in which the airlines would collect the data.

Robert Mocny, director of the US-VISIT program at DHS, said a test in which the airlines collect the data — as Congress requested — is still possible, but so far, airlines have refused to participate.

However, officials at the International Air Transport Association said DHS never asked the group to help develop a model in which airlines collected the information, and a spokeswoman at the Air Transport Association said her group had discussions with DHS, but nothing emerged from them.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

Featured

  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.