Delivery of an advanced biometric system being developed for the Department of Homeland Security is progressing, but the schedule target for the first increment has already slipped at least six months as the agency overseeing the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) program is bringing forward some key features earlier than expected, which is sacrificing schedule for upfront capability.

The first increment of HART will be delivered in spring 2020, Kenneth Gantt, deputy director of the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), said at the Connect:ID conference earlier this month.

Customs and Border Protection is implementing facial recognition checks for travelers departing the U.S. by air. This and other programs are adding new records to, and increasing demand on, the Deparment of Homeland Security’s IDENT biometrics system. Photo: CBP

Increment 1 of HART was originally scheduled for delivery this September but Gantt said that given the growth in IDENT, which is the legacy biometric database and matching system that HART will replace, “you have to make sure you take this methodically.”

The IDENT system is approaching a gallery size of 250 million identity records and so far in fiscal year 2019 has added 13 million records, Dave Grauel, program manager for HART, said at the conference. HART will more easily accommodate growth in records and transactions and the new infrastructure is expected to be more readily available versus the aging IDENT system.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime contractor for HART, which initially will have some of the same capabilities of IDENT, including the ability to match fingerprints, facial and iris images. But one of the new capabilities that is being pulled forward into Increment 1 from Increment 2 as originally planned will be multimodal biometric fusion, Patrick Nemeth, identity operations director for OBIM, told Defense Daily in a brief interview in his office following the Connect:ID conference.

The fusion capability will provide better outcomes for biometric searches, enhancing the accuracy of these searches.

Nemeth also said that OBIM is moving the face and iris matching capabilities of HART into Increment 1 in the cloud environment and out of the data centers that currently house IDENT, pulling forward another capability that adds some technical challenges sooner than expected. He said matching of facial images is becoming increasingly important of some of OBIM’s customers.

The shift from existing enterprise data centers to the government cloud environment is significant, Grauel said, adding that HART will begin with Amazon Web Services [AMZN] but eventually the plan is to potentially use other government-approved cloud providers.

Nemeth also said that there will be a log of testing of HART and parallel operations of the new system and IDENT, which will remain the system of record, until HART is ready. He expects the operational overlap of the two systems to be between two and three months versus the originally planned three to six months.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for Increments 1 and 2 of HART. The second increment is expected to be ready in early 2021, which will be full operational capability of the system. Nemeth said the current schedule for Increment 2 is holding, although some industry officials told Defense Daily they suspect the schedule will slip.

OBIM plans to recompete HART for Increments 3 and 4, which will add various new capabilities to the program, including additional biometric modalities and analytics. OBIM officials said that a Request for Information for the third and fourth increments is due shortly. Nemeth said OBIM is still collecting customer requirements.

HART will provide a more scalable architecture as the number of transactions and the size of the database grow versus the legacy IDENT system. In addition, the new system will also allow for more biometric modalities as customers’ requirements change and it will also let OBIM pilot test new capabilities–such as new matching algorithms–before deciding whether to adopt them.

The new system will also be able to automatically scale based on demand, Grauel said. HART will also offer interoperability improvements with other biometric partners, increased cyber security, and cost efficiencies, he said.