IBM protests Lockheed's FBI win

The FBI's $1 billion system to upgrade its fingerprint database is on hold.

IBM Corp. filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office Feb. 25 against the bureau's Feb. 12 award to Lockheed Martin Corp. GAO has until June 4 to make a decision, according to the audit agency's Web site.

The FBI's report on the protest is due March 26, according to GAO.

IBM spokeswoman Lia Davis said the company would not comment on the protest. Likewise, Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Leslie Holoweiko also declined to comment and referred all questions to the FBI.

FBI spokesman Billy Estok confirmed the protest, but would not comment further.

The FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is an upgrade to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which collects and stores fingerprints related to law enforcement investigations. NGI will collect photographs and palm prints and will make it easier for the FBI to share data.

The contract will include engineering support, software and hardware support, an interstate photo system, advanced fingerprint technology and palm-print biometric identification. It might be expanded to include facial recognition and iris scans.

Northrop Grumman also bid on the contract, but did not protest the award, according to GAO's bid protest docket.

The protest and delay is troubling for the biometric industry, which sees the contract as a boon for business, said a report by Wall Street analyst Jeremy Grant of the Stanford Group Co.

The contract is particularly important to biometric players Cogent Systems and L-1 Identity Solutions, Grant said, because the companies are expected to compete against each other to be the primary technology provider for the project.

Grant called it a "biometric backoff," which was expected to be completed in the second half of this year, but will now be pushed back into 2009, he said.


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