SIBA founder urges DHS to implement biometric border exit in Senate testimony and roundtable

April 28, 2015 - 

Secure Identity & Biometrics Association founder Janice Kephart is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to promptly deploy a comprehensive biometric immigration exit system and re-designed entry system, while reiterating these benefits in a roundtable discussion titled “Securing The Border: Biometric Entry and Exit at Our Ports of Entry“.

In testimony today before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Kephart emphasized the urgency of the Department of Homeland Security implementing biometric solutions throughout the country’s airports amid the growing threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“The only way for US border officials to have significant confidence in defeating ISIS and other terrorist and criminal organizations from coming and going through our ports without detection is by using biometrics,” says Kephart. “While a person may try to lie about his name and his travel document, a person’s physiological characteristics cannot lie, nor be lost, forgotten, stolen, or forged.

“To be clear, passports are designed to be replicated by governments. Keeping them secure is essential, but difficult. Having biographic information for each individual is also essential. However, biographic information stored on a passport is well known to be subject to fraud and counterfeiting.

“This is especially so when even ePassports (which contain a chip that bearing the information that is on a passport bio page) are not systematically authenticated, as is the case with the US immigration entry system. Yet when one or more biometrics is added to the biographic border process, then the ability of a fake or manipulated real passport to successfully bypass a port of entry undetected becomes extremely difficult.”

One of the main reasons why the biometric exit system has not been established some 14 years after 9/11 is because none of the eight laws passed since 1996 have offered enough incentive for compliance, Kephart says.

As such, Kephart is recommending Congress to pass legislation requiring compliance as well as authorize appropriations for the project, which can be achieved by charging an increased visa fee equivalent to what the travel and tourism industry already receives from foreign nationals applying for visas.

“Surely our security is equal in value to tourism,” says Kephart. “Moreover, authorizing an increase in visa fees could enable biometric exit deployment, for at least major international border ports of entry, to be as budget neutral as possible. That is essential when sequestration looms over every budget cycle.”

Kephart emphasizes the feasibility of a biometric immigration entry / exit system by outlining 32 countries’ biometric border systems.

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is currently completing a five-year build-out of 80 e-gates used for entry, exit and transfers, which costs 30 million Euros (USD $32.6 million).

The amount is significantly lower than the $3 billion price tag the US government placed on implementation at international airports, and even less than Kephart’s 2013 projections of $500 million.

Kephart also brings up the example of Hong Kong’s integration of biometrics with document reader technology into all land, rail, sea and air ports.

The Hong Kong-China land borders process 92 million passengers per year, which is remarkable considering that the entire US northern border processes about 60 million passengers annually.

On April 28 at 2:30 p.m., Kephart will join a panel of experts for a roundtable titled “Securing The Border: Biometric Entry and Exit at Our Ports of Entry“.

Participants include Arun Vemury, chief of Apex Air entry/exit re-engineering pilot for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Directorate of Science and Technology division; Kelli Burriesci, deputy assistant secretary for the screening coordination office at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s office of policy; John Wagner, deputy assistant commissioner for office of field operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection / US. Department of Homeland Security; and Chris Browne, airport manager of Washington Dulles International Airport (on behalf of the American Association of Airport Executives).

Kephart’s testimony can be read in full below. This testimony builds on her House Judiciary testimony of November 2013 where Kephart discussed in great detail opportunities for cost savings on deployment of biometric exit, and clearly established feasibility for a biometric exit.

Since that time Customs and Border Protection have been testing biometric solutions, but have yet to come up with a plan for deployment. “We are years away from biometric exit implementation still,” says Kephart.

Reported in November, the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA) teamed up with advocacy group Security Industry Association (SIA) to establish an “Airport Entry and Exit Working Group“.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.