Incoming Trump administration focusing on biometrics

January 20, 2017 - 

Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th American President after taking the oath of office in Washington today.

In his inauguration speech, he promised an era of “America first” policies where he would “bring back borders”. After a tremendous amount of tough talk, during both the Republican primary and U.S. presidential campaigns, expectations are that the new president will follow through with his promise of building a wall along America’s southern border.

While this election promise appeals to many nationalistic voters, serious policymakers have debated the practicality of such a proposal. In order to build a border wall, many diplomatic, environmental, bureaucratic and logistical challenges must be met. The main challenge might be monetary, as such an initiative would cost between US$7 and $12 billion and effectively be unfunded. While Trump famously said that Mexico would be compelled to pay for a border wall, making that government pay outright for it will be near impossible.

Serious policymakers emphasize the fact that in an age defined by globalized air travel, the real challenge to securing borders has become mainly technological. As a consequence, it is not surprising that the Trump administration added a number of biometrics industry veterans to its transition team, specifically focused on homeland security.

In late November, BiometricUpdate.com reported that the Trump transition team hired Michael T. Dougherty, previously CEO of the Secure Identity and Biometrics Association (SIBA), to provide policy advice to the incoming administration. Dougherty has over 20 years of legal and policy experience in the federal government. At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), he was appointed Ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services where he led an office of 27 professionals with a US$6.5 million budget.

Dougherty served as Legislative Counsel to Senator Jon Kylon the Senate Judiciary Committee and prior to that, as a Senior Policy Advisor at DHS Headquarters. He also served as an appellate litigator with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Immigration Litigation, and as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Immediately before he became the CEO of SIBA, he was Director of Business Development in Homeland Security Programs at Raytheon. At the defense contractor, he was responsible for initiating and supporting pursuits in the homeland and public safety markets, and leading collaborative efforts across businesses to bring distinctive products and services to civilian mission sets. He also represented Raytheon as a thought leader, writing white papers and speaking at both U.S. and international events. He also worked to evaluate third-party technologies for investment purposes.

Other press reports also note the appointment of other biometrics industry experts including Lora Ries, a former registered lobbyist for L-1 Identity Solutions and John Sanders, a board member of Evolv, a security technology firm that focuses on facial recognition and surveillance.

These appointments were expected by some industry analysts since technology, especially biometrics, plays a major role in ongoing border security operations. Indeed, in a previous report, Biometrics Research Group, Inc. projected that increased biometric spending would occur due to immigration reform, regardless of which political party controls the White House. The previous report noted that if the U.S. government seriously attempts to complete a biometric exit system, which would collect the fingerprints of foreigners departing the United States, such a system, if ever implemented, would cost several billion dollars. Since the incoming Trump administration is dedicated to that goal as a key component of its proposed immigration policy, it is not surprising that a cadre of biometric industry experts are now advising the new administration.

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About Rawlson King

Rawlson O’Neil King is a contributing editor at BiometricUpdate.com and is an experienced communications professional, management consultant, trade journalist and author who recently published a book about control and electronic networks and who has written numerous articles in trade publications and academic journals about smart home and building technologies. Follow him @rawlsonking2.