Success of President Trump's Vetting Policies Will Partly Hinge on the Success of the Department of Homeland Security's Capability to Appropriately Identify People; DHS Office of Biometric Identity Management's Newly Released Modernization Requirements Likely Linchpin
WASHINGTON, March 2, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Former Chief Architect of the world's first large-scale biometric identity management system and partner at Identity Strategy Partners, Mark Crego, today releases the following statement regarding the release of a Request for Proposal by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) to replace US-VISIT/IDENT biometrics system with new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART):
In the past two weeks, DHS OBIM has engaged industry in a Request for Proposal (RFP) for new 'Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology' to replace the aging US-VISIT/IDENT system. Why is OBIM modernization relevant? OBIM is the homeland repository responsible for engineering the proper storage, retrieval and protection of highly sensitive biometric and biographic identity data that is critical to a diverse set of homeland security functions, thus making the program the most critical linchpin to any augmented vetting procedures required by President Trump.
OBIM's modernization, which is already highly complex identity management system, must be done right to serve its 48 current (and growing) customers, protect privacy, and assure against cyber attacks. Moreover, the implementation of biometric exit will markedly increase the number of daily identity transactions, further complicating the challenge to a system that is now 12 years old and in dire need of the modernization represented by this RFP.
Complicating the modernization is the fact that OBIM's customers all have different missions with different identity needs, including watchlisting and identity resolutions. Customers include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who in turn services 40,000 state and local law enforcement customers; Customs and Border Protection for all inspections; and the Department of Defense for high risk identifications in the field.
Having spent five years of my career as US-VISIT's Chief Architect, I am well aware of OBIM's current limitations. To be clear: the current DHS identity management system was designed to house up to 200 million people's fingerprints, and support up to 250,000 identification transactions per day. Today the system has over 240 million identities and is conducting over 300,000 transactions per day, while simultaneously adding in face and iris biometric matching technologies.
The fact that OBIM is maintaining operations despite having exceeded its original architecture is a testament to the prowess of OBIM. However, with facilitation and security demands ever increasing, volume increasing, and biometric front-end and software matching solutions having evolved and improved dramatically over the past decade, DHS must upgrade how the system manages and makes identity determinations that include face, iris and fingerprints simultaneously while scaling to at least 500 million identities in its database. In addition, the system must support at least 500,000 daily transactions, most in less than 10 seconds, to support border processing.
Two items of note:
(1) While OBIM's modernization takes on new importance with President Trump's focus on identity vetting in the immigration and law enforcement context, the importance of identity vetting across government functions is established policy. Congressional appropriators in March 2013 echoed a similar value proposition for OBIM when they changed the name of the program office from US-VISIT to OBIM, assuring that the nation was aware that the program's value was no longer just to service visitors to the United States, but the entire U.S. security community.
(2) OBIM has sought a path forward on modernization since 2012. While the RFP's timing is somewhat ironic in light of the Trump's call for enhanced vetting procedures, it is purely coincidental. The original RFP was slated for May 2016. Delays resulted in the February 2017 release.
After a five year journey consisting of multiple drafts of the procurement, the progress in the past two weeks toward a formal procurement is good news. By strengthening how we identify people in order to properly vet them for a diverse portfolio of facilitation and security needs, we are one step closer to assuring that identity management is doing its job according to best-in-class technical and policy requirements, while having the capability to support identity protection and vetting in a standardized and rational manner.