HP won a $102.8 million contract to upgrade Homeland Security Department employee identification cards with features that accommodate iris and facial recognition, according to federal funding databases. The potentially 10-year-deal, awarded a day before the government shut down, requires the company to replace the department's fingerprint ID system with more complex authentication tools, such as scans of the colored portion of the eye.
DHS in May kicked off the competition for the job, which drew interest from Booz Allen Hamilton, CGI Federal, incumbent contractor XTec, and 36 other companies that sent representatives to a June 11 industry briefing.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress mandated that all federal personnel carry smart card credentials to access government facilities and networks. Today, many federal workers, including 82 percent of DHS computer users, flash the credentials at guards, rather than digital readers, largely because the cards’ electronic components remain dormant, according to internal audits. Homeland Security is aiming to replace 161,924 cards in 2013 and 116,172 cards in 2014, contract papers state.
To qualify for the job, vendors had to propose technologies that "support future alternative biometric capabilities and standards, specifically such as facial recognition, iris capture, storage, and matching," according to technical specifications.
For years, there have been no consistent procedures for exchanging eye images between cameras and card readers. That changed in July after the National Institute of Standards and Technology finalized guidelines for incorporating iris scans into employee IDs.
HP's DHS work also is expected to involve "the full range of program management support, engineering services, labor, materials, and equipment,” from employee enrollment to card reader synching, the contract filings state.