Hutchinson: Biometrics gains spotlight at DHS

Biometric technologies are at the forefront of the Homeland Security Department's efforts to secure the nation's borders and transportation and immigration systems, a DHS official said today.

"Our practical task is to serve America and protect the homeland from terrorists, and biometrics is an essential part of this," said Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security at DHS.

DHS is using biometric technologies in three large security programs: U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology system, called U.S. Visit, which uses biometric information to track the entries and exits of foreign nationals; Registered Traveler pilot program, in which travelers have volunteered to provide biographical information and/or digital fingerprint and iris scans at five airports nationwide; and the Transportation Workers Identification Credential, or TWIC, pilot program that incorporates biometric information on cards for transportation workers.

Hutchinson said the biometrics-based security programs have four goals: to verify the identities of individuals; to do background checks for criminal activity; to maximize efficiencies and minimize inconveniences for travelers; and to safeguard personal privacy.

Hutchinson also said that the biometrics support group ? an initiative he created to determine how DHS uses biometrics to avoid duplicative programs ? found that the department needs to do a better job coordinating its biometrics programs to promote efficiency and reduce costs. DHS has more than 60 biometrics programs across nine organizations at present, he said.

Hutchinson also said the group has set three goals for DHS' use of biometrics, including common standards, unified processes and a single verifiable identity for every individual DHS encounters at any place in the nation.

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