Millions tracked

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2004-01-12 Print this article Print

The government will deploy US-VISIT in every port of entry in the country, recording and tracking millions of people who land here every year. It will have to work reliably, 24-by-7, to identify malefactors while rapidly processing masses of innocent people who only want to get peaceably on with their vacations or their new lives in the United States. The problem is that when it comes to connecting biometrics to a global data processing system, nobody knows what is the state of the art. The government is going to have to pay somebody to invent it.
Late last year DHC asked Accenture LLP, Computer Sciences Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to submit bids based on proposals the companies had submitted earlier. The government plans to choose one of these companies to be the lead contractor for US-VISIT by next May.
When the government tells you that it might cost as much as $10 billion to design, build and deploy such a system, increase that figure two or three times because US-VISIT is as complex and risky a project as some of the biggest weapons procurement programs in the countrys history. Just how risky can be judged from the federal governments atrocious record of trying to deploy modern and efficient data processing systems for fundamental public service agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or the Internal Revenue Service. The record is full of accounts about delays, cost overruns and outright failures in a multitude of government computer procurement programs. Even with all of the engineering and computer science talent on their payrolls, neither the government nor the contractor candidates can be absolutely certain that they can successfully assemble this system—no matter what they might say publicly. Next page: The reason behind great technological advances.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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