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SIBA teams with SIA to encourage airport biometric entry-exit system


The Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA), a key biometrics industry non-profit trade association, announced that it has teamed up with the Security Industry Association (SIA), an industry advocacy group, to establish an “Airport Entry and Exit Working Group“.

The working group was formed to represent the identity, document authentication and biometric industry to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, in an effort to support the development of a fully-functional airport border entry-exit system in the United States.

According to SIBA CEO Janice Kephart: “SIBA’s members are innovators of solutions that protect and secure identity across private and public platforms. The working group we have formed includes innovators that have worked with DHS for years on identity solutions, and others responsible for deploying huge biometric border systems overseas. These are the people that know how to develop and deploy holistic identity and biometric solutions that meet the demands of the traveling public, national security and privacy. It is pivotal that the Department of Homeland Security properly engage the Airport Entry and Exit Working Group now so the best biometric entry-exit solutions can be deployed as quickly as possible.”

Don Erickson, SIA CEO, noted: “The security industry has a long history of working with other stakeholders to provide technology solutions addressing border security and immigration issues. I am hopeful that the formation of the working group will foster the kind of productive public-private sector partnership that is essential to solving our nation’s most pressing challenges.”

In addition to SIBA and SIA, the working group also consists of a wide number of private sector companies, including: 3M, Abanacle Corp., Accenture, Animetrics, Aware, Inc., Deloitte & Touche, LLP, Document Security Systems (on behalf of the Document Security Alliance), HID Global, Iris ID Systems, L-3 Communications, MorphoTrak (Safran), Pro-Qual IT, Secure Planet, SE Solutions, SITA (Aero), SpeechPro, and Vision-Box.

Through the working group, the two industry associations have also concurrently released an “Identity and Biometric Entry and Exit Solutions Framework for Airports“. The purpose of the framework is to support the work of the Department of Homeland Security’s Apex Air Entry and Exit Re-Engineering (DHS AEER) Project as a key stakeholder.

The framework argues that the implementation of airport biometric exit program and improvements to biometric entry processes are not only possible and capable of meeting essential border control criteria, but are long overdue. The framework acknowledges that since 2004, multiple laws have been passed by the U.S. Congress that requires full implementation of a biometric entry-exit system at all ports of entry. However, the U.S. government has fell quite short of implementing a comprehensive solution. So far, the government has only been able to launch pilot projects.

Security experts such as James Chaparro, a former DHS Deputy Undersecretary for Intelligence and former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Director for Intelligence, and currently Executive Vice President of Strategy at SE Solutions, argues that the: “Terrorist threats we face at our borders and ports of entry continue to evolve and both lawful and unlawful pressures on our borders continue to increase. Better processes to facilitate travel but assure against illegal entry, and good data on overstays, are essential to keep our country safe. Our nation cannot afford to rely on antiquated technology and processes to secure our borders, and improving our biometric entry and exit screening processes should be a top priority in our efforts keep our nation safe.”

While DHS collects biographic exit data at airports, seaports, and the northern land border, no biometric collection takes place on exit, and no mandatory collection of exit data exists at the southern land border. The DHS has publicly stated that advancing and improving its existing biographic collection process is a major priority, considering the backbone of the U.S. criminal justice system is built on biographic data.

As a consequence, members of Congress have actively attempted to legislate the development of a fully-functional entry-exit system. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 explicitly required and called for the acceleration of US-VISIT’s efforts to create an automated biometric entry and exit data system. While the DHS made progress on the entry portion of US-VISIT, now know as OBIM, the exit system has not been implemented.

Congress repeated its demand for a biometric exit system in 2007, setting a deadline of 2009. That deadline came and went with only two small pilot programs. Since then, DHS has continued its slow move to meet this requirement in what the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has called “a long-standing challenge for DHS”.

In an effort to address the challenge, U.S. Customs and Border Protection created a new office to advance biometric entry-exit transformation in May 2013. The office’s stated mission is to enhance the integrity of the immigration system through strengthening processes that assure traveler identity. The goal of the new office is to accurately verify who arrives at U.S. ports of entry and to determine who is abiding by the terms of their admission and who is not, while enhancing border security and facilitating travel.

To accomplish this goal, CBP’s approach will include a “holistic assessment” of operational processes and an evaluation of a variety of technologies. This will include testing and deploying new biometric technologies while building on existing biographic data collection; and implementing a non-intrusive technology that is transparent to the traveler. One of the programs that the CBP will work on, in conjunction with DHS, is DHS AEER.

The working group will seek to provide input on DHS AEER that will help: formulate sound recommendations that will form the basis for securing a cost-effective funding mechanism to test, install and deploy air entry and exit solutions, as well as inform Congressional oversight of DHS AEER program activities and recommendations, as well as implementation by CBP.

Ultimately, the objective of both the working group and framework is to urge CBP to deploy a cost-effective and efficient airport biometric exit program that adheres to 16 years of federal statutory mandates with Congressional oversight and funding.

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