If you think the FBI has a large fingerprint database now, wait until Lockheed Martin Corp. completes work on a $1 billion contract that would double the existing file of 46 million fingerprint sets and include the newest biometric-identification techniques. It's enough to make special agents Mulder and Scully think about plunging back into the bureau's X-files.
Lockheed won the 10-year contract in February to design and build the FBI's Next Generation Identification system. NGI will update and expand the bureau's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), an advanced database when it was created in 1999.
But initial work on NGI was halted when IBM Corp. filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office over the decision to award the contract to Lockheed Martin.
Last month, shortly before GAO was scheduled to issue its ruling, IBM withdrew its protest, and Big Blue joined the Lockheed Martin team to develop and run the NGI multimodal biometrics system, which will be used by state, local and federal law enforcement authorities. Neither company was willing to offer details of the agreement.
"We don't talk about protest resolution, [but] we're delighted it was resolved," said Judy Marks, president of Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions. "The role they've been given is a great role for IBM. Most importantly, while we're pleased to have them on the team, it did not take away from any of the commitments that we have made to the subcontractors and teammates who've been with us for a couple of years."
The brief stoppage will not delay the original target completion date of 2017, she said. "IBM and Lockheed Martin have a strong history of collaborating in the federal community," Dave Amoriell, general manager at IBM Global Services Federal, said in a statement.
There appear to be more protests these days, and the process to resolve them is expensive and time-consuming, said Bob Dinkel, president and chief operating officer at FedResults, a government marketplace consulting firm. "It makes a lot of sense if it's only two firms butting heads to come to some kind of settlement," he added. "It tends to be a win-win for all parties involved."
"There are other cases that we've been involved in that have resolved themselves in the same way," said Bill Walsh, senior partner at law firm Venable LLP. "The dollars at risk are enormous, and the GAO sustain rate is at an all-time high. Under those circumstances, a subcontract arrangement will put a smile on the federal customer. In today's environment, these types of arrangements are encouraged." Walsh said he couldn't say whether resolving contract disputes by the parties involved is a trend in the federal marketplace. "It needs to be watched, but it's something that is in vogue today and may well turn into a trend."
Revising and updating the work schedule to include the brief hiatus is the task at hand, said Barbara Humpton, NGI program director at Lockheed Martin. "The most important thing to do in project management is to maintain a very solid plan, and we and the FBI are updating the baseline plan" created at the end of 2007.
Lockheed gave its team members temporary assignments during the protest period to keep them engaged and ready to return quickly to NGI. They've all been called back and are working again on the NGI contract, Humpton said. "We reassembled the team, put them back into those key slots to help re-plan things, and we have them side by side now with their FBI counterparts."
Upgrading the fingerprint files remains the first and most important part of the system because fingerprints remain a critical crimefighting and anti-terrorism tool. Fingerprint identification "is what law enforcement uses. That will not change anytime soon," Marks said. The fingerprint database is targeted to be fully functioning by 2013.
NGI will double the size of the FBI's IAFIS, which is housed in an underground facility in Clarksburg, W.Va. The repository is the largest collection of its kind in the world.
The FBI amassed the collection through voluntary submissions of fingerprints and from criminal collections by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. Authorized officials can scan IAFIS files for data by submitting a 10-print fingerprint set. Electronic responses are usually available within two hours for criminal cases and 24 hours for civil cases.
"IAFIS has been a fantastic tool in support of criminal justice and the war on terror," said Thomas Bush, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division. "NGI will give us bigger, better, faster capabilities and lead us into the future."
NGI has a design/build quality to it that is intended to accommodate upgrades and improvements throughout the contract period. If some new biometrics technology becomes available during the ninth year of the contract, it will be incorporated in the system, Marks said. "We don't know ... where we'll be 10 years from now," she said. "That's the real visionary part." She credited the FBI with setting the tone of the project by telling Lockheed Martin, "We know what we know, we know what we can see in the near term, but we're going to figure out the long term together."
The challenge is going to be identifying, evaluating and being able to implement new technologies and the various biometric modalities and using them effectively, Marks added. "Does iris [scanning] help you more? Does facial recognition help you? Does palm [print] help?"
"The framework itself is designed with open standards in mind," Humpton said, citing potential biometric advances. "The concept is to build a framework that enables various modalities to plug and play for the ultimate biometrics interoperability." NGI is being designed with technical flexibility to accommodate future biometrics technologies that could be important aids to law enforcement efforts. "There's a lot of invention going on," she said.
"Our challenge is to understand the state of the possible," Marks said. "Once it's possible to understand, can it be reduced to practice?" The FBI wants to take advantage of the best technologies as they emerge and not get locked into particular products and services, Humpton said. "So what we're bringing forward is a framework that is product-independent, vendor-independent."