The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Jan. 18 rejected a protest by Leidos [LDOS] of a contract awarded late last September to Northrop Grumman [NOC] to build out a new multimodal biometric database and identity management system for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The GAO’s decision frees up DHS to lift a stop work order issued to Northrop Grumman in October after the protest was filed.

In addition to Leidos, CSRA Inc. [CSRA] also lost out on the bid for the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) program, which will replace the current IDENT database used by DHS.

DHS on September 29, 2017, selected Northrop Grumman for the $95 million contract, which calls for the company to deliver the first two increments of HART. DHS currently plans four increments for the program and is expected to recompete the contract for the final two pieces.

In Increment 1, Northrop Grumman will migrate the current biometric capabilities of IDENT, which is largely fingerprint based but also has limited face and iris matching capabilities, create a new data architecture, and a new system development and testing environment for HART. Deliveries under the first increment are due within 18 months.

The second increment calls for Northrop Grumman to deliver more robust face and iris matching capabilities, a new biometric fusion capability that is expected to provide more accurate outcomes for multimodal biometric search results, and improved business processing workflows.

Japan’s NEC Corp. provides the face and iris matching capabilities that are part of IDENT and will continue, for now, to provide the same capabilities under HART. Netherlands-based Gemalto provides the fingerprint matching software for IDENT and will also continue to do so, at least initially, for HART.

The IDENT system is operated by the Office of Biometric and Identity Management (OBIM), which supports other DHS components in helping them carryout their operational missions by providing identity solutions. The IDENT is nearly 20 years old, costly to maintain, and is running out of storage.

The HART system will provide more scalability to hold vastly more biometric records than IDENT, faster processing times, and eventually more types of biometric modalities depending on the requirements of DHS users. Voice recognition and DNA are two additional modalities that some DHS agencies have expressed interest in.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. and the subsequent stand up of DHS, Congress directed the department to implement biometric checks on foreign nationals entering and departing the U.S. The IDENT system was already in existence but DHS awarded Accenture [ACN] a contract to scale it up as part of what was called the US-VISIT program. CSRA eventually won a recompete of work to operate and maintain IDENT.

The IDENT system is interoperable with the FBI’s Next-Generation Identification biometric database and also is interoperable to varying degrees with the Defense Department’s authoritative biometric database, the Next Generation ABIS. Leidos is the prime contractor responsible for helping the FBI and DoD operate and maintain their respective systems.