Accenture lands Homeland Security deal

The information technology services company wins a Department of Homeland Security contract worth up to $10 billion to help set up a system for tracking visitors to the country.

The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that it had awarded Accenture a contract worth up to $10 billion for help in upgrading the nation's system for tracking visitors.

Accenture, which provides information technology services, beat out rivals Lockheed Martin and Computer Sciences to become the prime contractor for a federal program called US-Visit. The program aims to capture and share data--including biometric data--on foreign visitors.

"This award marks an important milestone in the history of Homeland Security and the US-Visit Program," said a statement from Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary of border and transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security. "By harnessing the power of the best minds in the private sector, we have taken a major step toward accomplishing our goals of enhancing the security of our country while increasing efficiency at our borders."

The contract covers a base period of five years, with five one-year options. The contract value is for a minimum of $10 million and a maximum of $10 billion. Accenture is slated to provide a range of services including strategic support, design and integration activities, training, and "organizational change management."

The US-Visit program is part of a broader push by the federal government to improve security in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Some of the efforts have led to privacy concerns.

In addition, some critics say a "visa-processing quagmire" exists, and call for reforms to better welcome foreign students, scientists and scholars.

The US-Visit program now requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the United States on a visa and arriving at an airport or seaport have the prints of their two index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity at the port of entry, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Since implementing US-Visit entry capabilities at 115 airports and 14 seaports on Jan. 5, more than 4.5 million foreign nationals have been processed without their wait times being adversely affected, the department said. The program has helped the federal government intercept more than 500 persons with prior or suspected criminal or immigration violations, the department said.

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