DHS taps Accenture-led group for border security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has tapped IT services and outsourcing vendor Accenture Ltd. to help put in place new technologies at U.S. land border crossings to better track foreign visitors entering the nation using visas. In an announcement today, the DHS said a team of companies led by Accenture won the contract over two rivals -- Lockheed Martin Transportation & Security Solutions in Rockville, Md., and Computer Sciences Corp. in El Segundo, Calif.

Similar visitor-tracking programs have been in place at some 115 U.S. airports and 14 seaports since January (download PDF), but the program is now being expanded to include land border crossings, said a DHS spokeswoman, who asked to remain anonymous.

Under the deal, Accenture and its partner companies in the Smart Border Alliance -- which includes Raytheon Co., The Titan Corp. and SRA International Inc. -- will design and implement a land border-crossing system under the existing United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program. The deal is worth somewhere between US$10 million and $10 billion, depending on the level of services provided over the life of the contract.

By Dec. 31, the top 50 land border crossings in the U.S. will be required to have the new system in place so visitors using visas to enter the country can be tracked and monitored, the spokeswoman said. Photographs and digital finger scans will be taken at those border crossings for all visitors entering on visas under the program. U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents of the U.S. won't have to undergo the scans or be photographed.

The program is designed to allow officials to better track the arrival of visitors and monitor when they leave, she said. Improving tracking means visitors won't be able to overstay their visas as easily. "We're just adding a greater level of integrity into the system," the DHS spokeswoman said.

Since January, about 4.5 million visitors have entered the U.S. using visas under the existing tracking program at airports and seaports. That system has also prevented about 288 known criminals from entering the U.S., she said. "The program is about creating better data sharing."

The contract is for five years, with an option to extend it for another five years.

"Accenture and the other members of the Smart Border Alliance are fully committed to helping the Department of Homeland Security achieve its mission for the US-VISIT program," Stephen J. Rohleder, chief executive of Accenture's government operating group, said in a statement. "The Smart Border Alliance will pursue an end vision for US-VISIT that is designed to provide innovative solutions to current entry/exit problems, modernize or replace existing computer systems, introduce new border-management processes and implement a long-term strategy to help position DHS to address future challenges."

By Dec. 31, 2005, the land border program of US-VISIT is required to be expanded to all 165 land border crossings in the U.S., according to the DHS spokeswoman.

A spokesman for Hamilton, Bermuda-based Accenture couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

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