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It's known as USVisit, and by year's end it will use photos, fingerprints, and iris scans to create an electronic check-in and check-out system for foreign nationals entering the U.S. to work or study.
"The basic idea is fairly straightforward," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in address Tuesday at the National Press Club, announcing the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology System. "We want to keep terrorists out without compromising the welcoming mat."
USVisit also will be a crucial law-enforcement tool to locate foreign visitors who overstay or violate terms of their visas, Ridge said.
The government will phase in the system at airports and seaports late this year. When deployed, Ridge said, the government will no longer require the registration of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria through the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. Ridge also characterized the creation of a human resources management system for the 100-day-old department as among the biggest IT challenges facing the 180,000-employee agency.
"The most critical initiative that we've undertaken is to create a human resource system, a management system based on the principles of merit and fairness, but a management system that isn't based upon classification of personnel that's 40 and 50 years old," Ridge said. The 21st-century management system, as Ridge puts it, should give government "a kind of flexibility that we want in order to move people around when necessary and take advantage of the talent and experience and resources we have."
Ridge says the amalgamation of IT systems from the many agencies that make up Homeland Security presents organizational challenges. "We start with the glass half full," he said. "There are dozens of personnel systems, dozens of pay systems, but those are systems. That has as much to do with enterprise architecture as it does with anything else."
Integrating systems is a monstrous task, Ridge said, adding that "there are a lot of smart people out there that are in the process of helping us integrate the system."