USCIS Wants An Agile, Automated Biometric App Ecosystem

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The immigration agency is looking for a vendor to set up a secure development environment that will outlive the contract.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is looking for a vendor team to develop and manage applications for its biometrics services—a required step for anyone using immigration services.

Under the Biometrics Development, Security and Operations, or BDSO, contract, “The contractor will be operating and modernizing complex, legacy, large-scale, internet-facing websites and IT systems in the cloud using forward-thinking, modern, open source technologies and backend systems with heavy customer engagement,” according to a draft request for proposals posted to eBuy and provided to Nextgov by market intelligence firm The Pulse of GovCon.

USCIS uses biometrics such as fingerprints and photographs to verify identities throughout the process, including during background and security checks.

“USCIS has the general authority to require and collect biometrics—fingerprints, photograph and/or digital signature—from any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary or other individual residing in the United States for any immigration and naturalization benefit,” according to their website.

It is unclear whether the apps developed through this contract would be used for other purposes.

“The primary deliverable of this task order is deployed application code,” which the draft solicitation defines as: application source code, application build scripts, test code/test cases, environment build scripts and deployment scripts.

The performance work statement gives few details on the kind of apps USCIS wants built, but give extensive instructions on how contractors should provide those services, including a heavy emphasis on agile development and avoiding vendor lock-in.

While USCIS networks currently rely on Amazon Web Services as the cloud provider, the document notes that could change in the future and any potential solution must be provider-agnostic.

Along with the ability to transition to a different cloud provider, the contract also requires the vendor to build a development environment that can be transitioned to another contractor.

“Because the contractor will have automated the development, test and deployment pipeline, and because the contractor will have documented important design decisions and processes in [the system design document] and system security plan, the expectation is that this automation and documentation will be utilized to enable a smooth transition,” the document states.

Outside of technical and personnel deliverables, the solicitation also requires potential contractors to be in close physical proximity, “not to exceed a distance of 20 miles” from USCIS headquarters at 111 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

Contracting officers are not expressly requesting feedback or taking questions, though interested parties can submit comments.

The final solicitation is expected to drop in mid-July. The contract will be open to all offerors with a spot on the General Services Administration’s IT Schedule 70 professional services category.

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