Suit could hinder e-passport rollout

A lawsuit mounted by spurned vendor On Track Innovations Inc. of Ft. Lee, N.J., against the Government Printing Office over the rejection of the company's contactless chip technology for U.S. passports could slow rollout of the documents, according to industry sources.

Frank Moss, deputy assistant secretary of State for consular affairs, said, "We are in the final stages of our electronic and associated testing. We have an unresolved legal challenge to us in the Court of Federal Claims, but we remain optimistic that we will be producing electronic [diplomatic and official] passports in December and roll them out to the general public in February 2006."

State already has delayed the large-scale passport rollout until next year, partly because of a previous OTI challenge.

Vendor sources, however, said State likely would be unwilling to move ahead with deployment until OTI's suit is resolved, which could take months. The company filed the suit in mid-August, and the court ruled in September that it had jurisdiction over the matter. The dispute reached the claims court after the Government Accountability Office rejected OTI's protest at the administrative level.

Separately, DHS and State are working with foreign countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program to clarify requirements for digital photographs that will be required as of Oct. 27 and contactless chip technology that will be required in October 2006.

Austria already has failed to meet the federal government's requirements to produce the passports, and State informed Vienna last week that as of Oct. 27, Austrians will have to have visas to enter the U.S.

Wilson S. Dizard III is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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