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


The Integration Project Has Been Delayed Another Year

At the time of our December 2001 report, the major pending milestone for the integration project was deployment of the initial integrated version of the IDENT/IAFIS system (Version 1.2). Our December 2001 report found that the deployment schedule for the initial integrated version had been delayed by at least one year to December 2002. That delay occurred because JMD, after questioning the results of the Criminality Study, slowed the project until it could conduct an additional study of the downstream operational costs of the integration. Our current review found that the integration project was sidetracked again in June 2002 when IDENT/IAFIS resources were redirected to another high priority project (NSEERS). As a result, the scheduled deployment of Version 1.2 was further delayed until December 2003, two years later than originally planned.

We were unable to determine the extent to which the latest delay will push back the final completion date of the integration project because the overall project schedule has not been updated. However, we found indications that the project will not meet the planned FY 2007 final completion date for the integration. Specifically, JMD's FY 2002 budget request identified the funding requirement for the integration project as extending through FY 2007. However, JMD's FY 2003 budget request extended funding for the integration project through FY 2012. That was modified in JMD's FY 2004 budget plan, which indicates that they intend to continue funding the project in FY 2008 and beyond. Although the FY 2004 JMD project schedule budget no longer goes out to FY 2012, the latest delay, combined with the extended budget request, strongly indicates that the integration of IDENT and IAFIS will not be completed by FY 2007. Table 2 summarizes the status of all IDENT/IAFIS versions deployed or planned as of the date of this report.

Table 2
as of April 2003
Version Deployment Date Capabilities
1.0 September 2000 Searches IAFIS and returns FBI number automatically, but not the Record of Arrests and Prosecutions (RAP) sheet, which provides the criminal history. Requires separate search of NCIC to obtain RAP sheet. Uses large stand-alone ten-fingerprint scanner.
1.1 Summer 2002 Returns RAP sheet automatically. Requires dual processing of fingerprints and data entry to search IDENT and IAFIS. Collects operational information and improves computer security.
1.1.1 Fall/Winter 2002 Collects some metric information. Replaces stand-alone ten-fingerprint scanners with tabletop scanners. Upgradeable to later versions. Includes the booking function.
1.1+ Delayed until July 2003 Eliminates dual processing. Ten fingerprints are entered only once to enroll an alien and query both IDENT and IAFIS. Uses IDENT photograph. Collects better metric information in a real operational environment.
1.2 Delayed until December 2003 Collects one to four FBI compliant mugshots. Automatically submits ten-fingerprint card to INS for aliens to be entered into lookout database. Meet upgraded performance specifications. Interface to enable IAFIS data to be recorded in ENFORCE/IDENT. IAFIS query responses integrated with IDENT responses per subject.
2 FY 2003* Transfers archived ten-fingerprints into searchable files (Apprehension File).
3 FY 2004* Enables federal, state, and local law enforcement to search the Apprehension File through IAFIS.
4 FY 2006 to FY 2007* Full integration. Full capabilities have yet to be determined.
* Original deployment schedule, not revised to reflect latest delays.
Source: INS Project Documents

Although Version 1.2 was not deployed on time, JMD did make some progress since our last report. In the fall of 2002, JMD deployed a nonintegrated version of IDENT (designated Version 1.1.1) that included the equipment and some of the software enhancements that would be necessary to enable the first integrated version to be deployed once it is developed and added the electronic booking functions.11 As of mid-March 2003, Version 1.1.1 has been deployed to 51 sites. The Metric Study design was also completed, the metric sites selected, and a special metrics database created that will automatically collect the required data.

Deployment delays impacted the study of downstream operational costs and reporting to Congress. As described earlier in the report, in August 2001 JMD questioned the conclusions of the Criminality Study regarding the downstream operational costs of integration, and planned to conduct a 12?month Metric Study to develop more accurate estimates. For that purpose, JMD needed to deploy a version that would require only one entry of biographical information and one set of ten fingerprints to query both IDENT and IAFIS. JMD originally planned on using Version 1.2 because, under the original plans, it would be the first version to meet that requirement.12

In May 2002, after deployment of Version 1.2 was delayed, JMD developed an alternate plan for obtaining the data needed for the Metric Study. JMD proposed to develop a version (designated Version 1.1+) that would be scaled back in functionality from Version 1.2, but which would still meet its data collection needs by requiring only one entry of biographical information and one set of ten fingerprints to search both IDENT and IAFIS. JMD initially planned to deploy Version 1.1+ by December 2002, but missed this milestone due to the previously discussed redirection of resources to NSEERS. As of April 2003, Version 1.1+ had not yet been deployed to its first testing location. JMD told us it was planning to begin deploying Version 1.1+ in May 2003, finish by August 2003, and collect Metric Study data over the following 12 months.

The continuing delays in deploying an integrated version of IDENT/IAFIS also will affect the ability of the Department to meet the congressional deadline to report on the downstream operational costs of integration by June 2003. Because the Metric Study will not start until after that deadline, as of April 2003 JMD was planning to use data collected from the nonintegrated Version 1.1.1 sites, along with any data that might be available from early deployment sites of Version 1.1+, to prepare the Department's June 2003 report to Congress.

We question JMD's approach to meeting the congressional requirement because, according to JMD's own reasoning, the data it plans to use to prepare the cost projections for Congress will be of limited value. First, most of the data will be collected using the nonintegrated (two-step) fingerprinting process of Version 1.1.1. JMD delayed conducting the Metric Study precisely because it believes that data from a nonintegrated version cannot be used to accurately project the operational impacts of an integrated (one-step) fingerprinting process. Second, in Version 1.1.1, the separate results of the searches of IDENT and IAFIS are not automatically matched with each other. That matching is needed to determine which system provided the response that resulted in an alien being detained and, from that data, to project how many more aliens may be detained under an integrated IDENT/IAFIS than under IDENT alone. Projecting the number of additional detentions is essential for projecting downstream operational costs of the integrated system. Given the apparent limitations on the data that JMD plans to use to prepare its June 2003 report to Congress, we are concerned that any cost projections based on that data will not be reliable. In his May 22, 2003 response to our draft report, the Assistant Attorney General for Administration told us that JMD will advise Congress that the "data is not suitable for drawing national conclusions or making projections."

NSEERS delayed deployment of Version 1.1+ but JMD did not apprise senior Department officials of the delays. According to JMD and INS officials, the deployment of Version 1.1+ and Version 1.2 was delayed because of the requirement to develop and deploy NSEERS. After the Attorney General announced the NSEERS project in June 2002, JMD recommended that IDENT/IAFIS support NSEERS because JMD believed that it would benefit the IDENT/IAFIS project.13 The INS therefore directed the contractors and staff working on IDENT/IAFIS to instead work on the NSEERS project. On August 12, 2002, the Attorney General directed that NSEERS be operational by September 11, 2002. JMD expected that, after September, the INS contractor would resume working on the IDENT/IAFIS integration. However, the Department requested a series of modifications to NSEERS, and work on those modifications continued into March 2003, preventing the INS contractor from returning full-time to the integration project.

In addition to resource issues, technical issues related to NSEERS also caused delays in the IDENT/IAFIS integration project. The integration of IDENT/IAFIS and the development of NSEERS both required modifications to the INS's ENFORCE and IDENT systems.14 INS project staff told us that they concluded that it was risky to modify ENFORCE for the two projects simultaneously. Consequently, while ENFORCE was being modified for each of the five NSEERS upgrades deployed between September 2002 and March 2003, work to support the integration project periodically stopped, often for weeks at a time.

JMD project managers and their INS counterparts recognized immediately that NSEERS would delay the integration project, and discussed integration project delays at weekly JMD project meetings as early as July 2002. However, we found that JMD never brought these concerns to the attention of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or their staffs, despite frequent opportunities to do so. The Counsel to the Attorney General who directed the NSEERS project, attended frequent Departmental NSEERS progress update meetings with JMD representatives. However, in January 2003 he told us that he was unaware that NSEERS continued to adversely impact the integration project.15 The then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Administration led the IDENT/IAFIS integration project in his role as the Director of the JMD Management and Planning Staff. He stated that until January 2003 he believed that any delays would be minor and not of enough significance to discuss them with the Deputy Attorney General. He stated that he did not learn the full extent of the delays until January 9, 2003. However, even then he did not bring the issue to the attention of the Deputy Attorney General or his staff.

The failure of JMD to inform senior officials of the delays, particularly when the NSEERS modifications continued after September 2002, precluded them from taking actions to mitigate the delays and keep the integration project on schedule. These actions could have included providing additional resources and coordinating the development of NSEERS upgrades with the integration project so that both projects could proceed.

JMD Has No Transition Plan for Managing the Integration Project

JMD has failed to address the serious management challenges created by the INS's March 1, 2003, transfer to the DHS. We found that JMD has no transition plan to resolve basic management questions regarding the future development and deployment of the integrated system. In the absence of an effective transition plan, responsibility for the project is unclear and further delays are likely. During our interviews, we identified two important consequences of JMD's lack of transition planning.

Lack of Consensus. First, there is a lack of consensus among project participants regarding who should manage the future development and deployment of IDENT. The then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Administration told us that he was concerned that the transfer of the INS to the DHS may jeopardize further integration of IDENT and IAFIS, as the two agencies use the integration project to further their differing priorities. He believed that JMD should continue as the project manager because:

The Counsel to the Attorney General who directed NSEERS told us he strongly supported keeping management responsibility for IDENT/IAFIS integration project within the Department. He cited the obvious ties of IAFIS to the FBI. The Assistant Director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Systems said that, to his knowledge, the FBI did not have a position on this issue, but he believed that JMD would be the best manager because "it has been a good broker between the competing interests in the past" and has experience in managing the project. In addition, he believed that the DHS, as a new department, will be inundated with management issues and may not focus on the integration project.

In contrast to statements by JMD officials, the Counsel to the Attorney General, and FBI officials, the INS's Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Inspections took the opposite position regarding management of the integration project. He believed that the integration project would be a valuable asset for homeland security and as such integration project management should move to the DHS. Further, because key contractors working on the project are INS contractors, the technical expertise will move with the INS to the DHS and the integration project management responsibility also should be at the DHS.

Loss of Expertise. The second consequence of the transfer of the INS to the DHS is that the integration project expertise may be lost. As the DHS establishes its new organizational structure and reassigns staff accordingly, some of the individuals with the most expertise in the integration project are being assigned to other duties. For example, we verified that the INS's Biometrics Program Manager for Field Operations and the INS's Director of Enforcement Systems for Information Resource Management have been assigned to the DHS Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Before the INS transfer, they worked closely with INS Inspections, the Border Patrol, the FBI, and JMD on the IDENT/IAFIS project. However, in their new positions, they will no longer be involved with INS Inspections or the Border Patrol. Therefore, their knowledge of the integration project may be lost.

The transfer of the INS to the DHS presents a major challenge for JMD to manage the integration project between the departments. Yet, JMD does not have a comprehensive plan for the continued development and deployment of the integrated system after the INS transfer. Because of the lack of consensus among project participants, the potential loss of project expertise, and the failure of JMD to initiate meaningful discussions with the DHS, we believe that the integration project is likely to be further delayed.

Interim IDENT Enhancements Yielded Significant Results, but Full Integration is Needed to Protect Public Safety and National Security

In our December 2001 report, we reported that the full integration of IDENT and IAFIS would be significantly delayed. At that time, the INS was planning interim enhancements to improve the utility of IDENT until a fully integrated IDENT/IAFIS system was deployed. Those enhancements included deploying additional IDENT workstations to other Border Patrol stations, ports of entry, and district offices, and adding fingerprint records for alien wants and warrants to IDENT.17 In our report, we supported the INS's planned actions, and further recommended that the INS add fingerprint records of known or suspected terrorists into IDENT.

In December 2001, the INS, in coordination with the FBI, identified and loaded into IDENT approximately 80,000 wants and warrants fingerprint records from IAFIS. They selected fingerprint records based on various criteria such as a previous INS arrest. Since December 2001, the INS updates IDENT with new IAFIS fingerprint records on a biweekly basis, usually adding about 1,000 new records each time. As of mid-April 2003, IDENT contained about 152,200 wants and warrants fingerprint records.

The uploading of the IAFIS records into IDENT produced significant results. Since January 2002, the INS positively identified the fingerprint matches of approximately 4,820 apprehended individual aliens with those of suspects wanted for criminal offenses including property crimes, immigration-related offenses, drug trafficking, violent crimes, and drug possession. According to INS records, 50 of the positive identifications involved aliens wanted in connection with murder. In addition to the 152,200 wants and warrants fingerprint records, the INS worked with the FBI to add fingerprint records (from IAFIS) that correspond to NCIC criminal history records for persons whose countries of birth are included in the NSEERS requirement for registration. During this process, the INS added a total of 179,500 criminal history fingerprint records to IDENT. As of mid-April 2003, these additions resulted in 3,440 individual matches. The INS also received about 4,500 fingerprint records of terrorists or suspected terrorists from the FBI, which it entered into IDENT.18

Although uploading more than 331,700 IAFIS fingerprint records into IDENT demonstrated the potential value of a fully integrated system, it falls well short of the capability offered by full integration of all 40 million IAFIS fingerprint records. Without a fully integrated system, there is:


The integration of the IDENT and IAFIS automated fingerprint systems continues to proceed slowly. Since our last report, the integration project has fallen another year behind schedule and will be delayed further because of JMD's lack of planning for the INS's transfer to the DHS. The slow progress is even more troublesome because the interim enhancements to IDENT resulted in the positive identification of approximately 4,820 apprehended individual aliens with those of suspects wanted for criminal offenses. Until JMD and participating agencies ensure that all available IDENT and IAFIS fingerprint records can be searched, criminal aliens and potential terrorists who should be identified and detained may be missed. This is a significant risk to public safety and national security.

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 - full integration of the systems remains years away. In the past, JMD argued against proceeding with the integration without the necessary data to accurately project downstream operational costs because the costs may be significant and deserved further study. However, it has been 20 months since JMD slowed the integration project to do its Metric Study, but it has yet to field the integrated version needed to support the Study. Furthermore, JMD has not made the necessary transition plans to prevent further delays and lead the integration project to completion now that the INS is part of the DHS. As a result, there are divergent viewpoints among key officials regarding the future of the integration project.

Because of the enormous value of an integrated fingerprint system for identifying criminal aliens and terrorists attempting to enter the country, and the Department's focus to prevent terrorism, we believe JMD must act aggressively to prevent further delays. We again conclude that the Department should aggressively and expeditiously pursue the integration of the FBI and INS automated fingerprint systems.


We make four recommendations to JMD to better manage the IDENT/IAFIS project and prevent further delays. We recommend 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 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. Booking is an administrative step taken after a person is arrested and involves recording the suspect's name, the criminal offense with which the suspect is being charged, and other pertinent facts and taking the suspect's fingerprints and photograph.

  2. The earlier versions still used a two-step data entry and fingerprinting process. In those versions, INS officers entered the aliens' background information into different workstations for IDENT and IAFIS. Often, those workstations were in different parts of the building. The aliens had to be fingerprinted for an IDENT query at one workstation and then fingerprinted again at another workstation for an IAFIS query. The INS officers would then receive two responses - one from IDENT and another from IAFIS.

  3. The implementation of NSEERS enhanced the IDENT/IAFIS effort in one way. To support NSEERS, funding was provided for an additional 31 Version 1.1.1 IDENT/IAFIS sites, which raised the number of sites that would receive Version 1.1.1 in FY 2002 from 18 to 49.

  4. ENFORCE is a case management system that documents and tracks the investigation, identification, apprehension, detention, and removal of immigration law violators.

  5. The Counsel added that it was his opinion that had someone advised the Office of the Attorney General that NSEERS development was delaying the IDENT/IAFIS integration project, it would not have made a difference in the project resource assignments.

  6. However, the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Administration said that he did not formally present his views to the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General, and JMD did not develop a formal transition plan for the integration project because he assumed that the Department would continue to manage the integration project after the INS moved to the DHS.

  7. Since December 2001, the INS deployed an additional 1,600 workstations. In FY 2003, the INS plans to deploy an additional 300 to 400 IDENT workstations.

  8. For security reasons, the number of matches is not releasable.