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Homeland Security targets 2018 for biometric exit at key U.S. airports


Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told a Senate committee that biometrics-based exit technology could expand to key U.S. airports by 2018.

He told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on June 30 that the US$1 billion Congress allocated last year for a biometrics-based entry-exit system marked a turning point for the department’s efforts.

Since 2004, multiple laws have been passed by the Congress that requires full implementation of a biometric entry-exit system at all ports-of-entry. However, the U.S. government has fallen quite short of implementing a comprehensive solution. So far, the government has only been able to launch a series of pilot projects.

Johnson noted however that progress has been made by way of a pilot project underway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, designed to evaluate use of facial recognition technology to identify visitors when they leave the country.

In written testimony to the committee, Johnson noted: “For years Congress and others have urged us to develop a system for biometric exit – that is, to take the fingerprints or other biometric data of those who leave the country. CBP has begun testing technologies that can be deployed for this nationwide. With the passage of the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Congress authorized up to $1 billion in fee increases over a period of ten years to help pay for the implementation of biometric exit. In April, the Department delivered its Comprehensive Biometric Entry/Exit Plan to Congress, which details CBP’s plan for expanding implementation of a biometric entry/exit system using that funding. I have directed that CBP redouble its efforts to achieve a biometric entry/exit system, and to begin implementing biometric exit, starting at the highest volume airports, in 2018.”

“By 2018, we’ll have the pieces in place” to begin using a biometrics-based exit system more widely, Johnson told the committee orally. “The early indications of the pilot are positive…. It’s time to do this,” he said.

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