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Status of IDENT/IAFIS Integration
Report No. I-2003-005
June 2003


The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has examined over the past several years the integration of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) automated fingerprint systems.1 In 1999, the Department of Justice (Department) assigned the Justice Management Division (JMD) to lead the effort to integrate the INS's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).

In December 2001, we evaluated the Department's progress at integrating IDENT and IAFIS and found that the integration project was a year behind schedule. We also reported that the INS planned to implement several interim measures to enhance IDENT until it is integrated with IAFIS. We conducted the current review to examine (1) whether the integration project was on schedule, (2) whether JMD planned for the continued development and deployment of the integration project after the INS transfer to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and (3) whether the INS had implemented its planned interim enhancements to IDENT.2

The primary finding of this review is that integration of IDENT and IAFIS continues to move slowly and has fallen another year behind schedule. We also found that the integration project is at risk of further delay because JMD did not develop a transition plan for continued management of the project once the INS transferred to the DHS in March 2003. The delays and lack of planning for the future of the integration project is even more troubling because the limited interim enhancements made by the Department to IDENT have had impressive results. For example, from January 2002 to mid-April 2003, the INS matched and positively identified the fingerprints of approximately 4,820 apprehended individual aliens with the fingerprint records of suspects wanted for a variety of serious criminal offenses, including 50 aliens wanted in connection with murder. These results demonstrated the extraordinary need for implementing timely an integrated IDENT/IAFIS system to identify criminal aliens and terrorists. Based on our review, we believe that there will be further delays to the integration project, and that these delays create continued risks to public safety and national security.

Results in Brief

The integration project has been further delayed. As of April 2003, the integration project was at least two years behind schedule. When we issued our December 2001 report, the major milestone for the integration project was deployment of the initial integrated version of the IDENT/IAFIS system. JMD delayed deployment of that integrated version from December 2001 until December 2002 in order to conduct a study of the downstream operational costs of the integration (Metric Study). Our current review found that JMD missed the December 2002 deployment date, and now plans to deploy the initial integrated version in December 2003 - two years later than originally planned.

According to JMD officials, the reason for the latest year-long delay was that the contractors and INS staff dedicated to the integration project were redirected in June 2002 to implement the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).3 Thus, design and development of the first integrated version of IDENT/IAFIS were put on hold until NSEERS became operational. JMD expected that to occur by September 11, 2002, after which resources would revert to the IDENT/IAFIS integration project. However, the Department continued to identify additional NSEERS requirements, which kept the IDENT/IAFIS contractors working on NSEERS into March 2003. We found that despite the mounting delays, JMD neither prepared a revised schedule for completing the integration of IDENT and IAFIS nor informed the Deputy Attorney General or his immediate staff that the integration project was falling behind schedule.

We could not determine the impact of the latest delays on the final project completion date because the IDENT/IAFIS project schedule has not been updated. However, we found that the final completion probably will be delayed from the original Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 date because JMD's FY 2004 budget plans indicate they intend to continue funding the project in FY 2008 and beyond.

JMD did not develop a transition plan for continued management of the project once the INS transferred to the DHS. The March 2003 transfer of the INS from the Department to the DHS divides critical integration project responsibilities between two departments. JMD, which coordinates the integration project, and the FBI, which controls IAFIS, remain in the Department, while the INS and IDENT move to the DHS. JMD faces a major challenge because it must now manage the integration project between agencies in different departments. Yet JMD did not develop a plan for the continued development and deployment of the integrated system prior to the INS transfer. Consequently, the integration project, already behind schedule, is likely to experience further delays. In our discussions with the Department and INS officials, we found no consensus regarding future management of the integration project.

Interim enhancements to IDENT have yielded significant results. Although the integration project has been delayed, our review found that the Department has made interim enhancements to IDENT by adding to it fingerprint records from IAFIS. The INS and the FBI entered into IDENT 152,200 National Crime Information Center (NCIC) "wants and warrants" fingerprint records on individuals who were likely to be aliens (e.g., previously arrested by the INS).4 As a result of entering these records, since January 2002 the INS matched approximately 4,820 fingerprints of apprehended individual aliens with the fingerprint records of suspects wanted for a variety of serious criminal offenses, including at least 50 aliens wanted in connection with murder. The INS also added to IDENT 179,500 fingerprint records of people from countries subject to NSEERS registration. From September 2002 to mid-April 2003, this effort resulted in an additional 3,440 individual matches.

The addition of approximately 331,700 fingerprint records to IDENT is still well short of completely integrating 40 million FBI fingerprint records with over 4 million INS alien fingerprint records. As of April 2003 the Department still lacked the ability to fully exchange fingerprint records between the INS and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. A fully integrated fingerprint system will improve the identification of aliens who are criminals or terrorists by ensuring that apprehended aliens are automatically checked against all automated IDENT and IAFIS fingerprint records and enabling other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to access INS data through IAFIS.


The integration of the IDENT and IAFIS automated fingerprint systems continues to proceed slowly. Since our last report in December 2001, the integration project has fallen another year behind schedule and is at risk of further delay because JMD has not planned for continued management of the project after the INS's transfer to the DHS. Although each of the delays incurred since JMD assumed responsibility for the integration effort in 1999 has been attributable to reasonable causes - the latest being development of NSEERS - at the current rate of progress integration of the two fingerprint systems is still years away.

The delays are all the more regrettable because the interim enhancements to IDENT demonstrated the value of an integrated fingerprint system for law enforcement officers and their efforts to protect the United States against criminal aliens and terrorists. Until the integration is complete, the INS, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies remain unable to simultaneously query INS and FBI fingerprint records. Therefore, some aliens who should be detained will not be.

Given the proven benefits afforded by an integrated fingerprint system, the slow progress of the integration project represents an unacceptable risk to public safety and national security. Rather than extending the project, JMD instead should be seeking to expedite the project and complete the integration even before FY 2007. Immediate management attention to this critical project is essential to avoid additional delays, which will reduce the vulnerability of the United States to entry by criminal aliens and terrorists.


We made four recommendations to JMD to better manage the IDENT/IAFIS project and prevent further delays. We recommended that the Assistant Attorney General for Administration:

  1. Coordinate with the DHS to identify the management, deployment, and operational issues raised by the INS transfer to the DHS;

  2. Prepare a revised deployment plan with short- and long-range milestones to guide the integration project to the soonest possible completion;

  3. Brief the Deputy Attorney General's office often on the revised deployment plan, and identify management controls and resources for the integration project; and

  4. Produce quarterly reports on the progress and interim results of the Metric Study.


  1. The Rafael Resendez-Ramirez Case: A Review of the INS's Actions and the Operation of Its IDENT Automated Fingerprint Identification System (March 20, 2000); and Status of IDENT/IAFIS Integration (December 7, 2001).

  2. On March 1, 2003, the INS was transferred to the DHS, and its responsibilities divided among three bureaus: the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In this report we refer to the INS as it existed prior to March 1, 2003.

  3. On June 5, 2002, the Attorney General announced plans to strengthen the congressionally mandated entry-exit system. NSEERS is the initial step of a comprehensive entry-exit system and focuses on nonimmigrant aliens who pose potential national security risks. NSEERS collects nonimmigrant information and fingerprints.

  4. Wants and warrants refer to the Wanted Persons file of the NCIC. The Wanted Persons file contains records on individuals with (1) outstanding warrants for serious misdemeanors or felonies, and (2) temporary felony wants. A temporary felony want is issued when a law enforcement agency must take prompt action to apprehend a person who has committed or is believed to have committed a felony.