L-1 lands U.S. passport card program

L-1 Identity Solutions, the brainchild of former L-3 co-founder Robert LaPenta, has landed a contract from the U.S. Department of State, to produce the U.S. passport card. The prime contract that L-1 received was worth approximately $107 million over five years.

The electronic identification card would be used for frequent travelers across U.S. borders as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. It's designed to supplant the traditional book-style U.S. passport. It would include digital information (including a biometric) about the holder, similar to the new U.S. e-Passports. The Department of State had initially awarded the contract to a team involving General Dynamics in January, but re-awarded the contract to L-1, ostensibly to produce a more cost-effective card. L-1 is best known for the work of two companies, Identix and Viisage, which recently merged to form the core of L-1 Identity Solutions. The firm also recently closed its acquisition of Bioscrypt, a firm well known in the security community for providing both physical and network/logical biometric-based access control solutions.

LaPenta, the company's chairman, president and CEO, said receiving the prime contract "demonstrates that L-1 has the operational strength, superior technology and unmatched scalability required to support projects of this magnitude as a prime contractor."

It was a sentiment with which Jeff Kessler, an independent consultant and veteran analyst of the security industry, said he agreed.

"While I believe the award will be moderately profitable for L-1, it is a huge psychological win for a company trying to prove its worth as a prime contractor in the national ID area," said Kessler. "L-1, assuming it performs at or above standard on this contract, now becomes a legitimate contractor and subcontractor for the largest national ID projects -- garnering new respect from both investors and large integrators."

The company, noted Kessler "has been the exclusive provider of passports for the Department of State and the sole provider of the State Department visa issuance system."

L-1's subcontractors for the passport card program include Datacard Group, American Bank Note, RCD Technology, Identity StrongHold, Intermec and Transcore.

The passport card program is already in motion in terms of initial demand. The Department of State began accepting applications for the card on Feb. 1 of this year.