The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last Friday selected Northrop Grumman [NOC] as the prime contractor to create a new multimodal biometric identity management system meant ultimately designed to provide the department’s components and other federal stakeholders with greater capabilities to ferret out terrorists and criminals.

Northrop Grumman beat CSRA, Inc. [CSRA] and Leidos [LDOS] for the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) system, which will replace the current IDENT system that DHS has used for nearly two decades but is costly to maintain and is running out of storage. A team led by Accenture [ACN] more than 10 years ago began to scale up the IDENT system as part of its build out of the U.S.-VISIT contract although CSRA eventually took over operations and maintenance of the biometric-based system.

The HART contract is valued at $95 million.

Northrop Grumman will be responsible for Increments 1 and 2 of HART, which “will support the work of the Office of Biometric Identity Management, and its mission partners, the next generation of flexible, scalable, and efficient biometric repository technology,” DHS said.

The award is still subject to a potential protest.

Leidos recently won a contract to maintain and upgrade the Defense Department’s authoritative biometric database, the Next-Generation ABIS system, unseating Northrop Grumman. Leidos is also responsible for helping to operate and maintain the FBI’s biometric database, the Next Generation Identification system, also called NGI.

IDENT is primarily used for its repository of fingerprints but it also has facial photos and iris images. Facial recognition technology isn’t nearly as capable as fingerprint recognition and is typically more manually intensive when seeking matches but DHS is increasingly interested in using the technology, particularly to help track foreign nationals as the arrive and exit the U.S.

Under Increment 1 of HART, Northrop Grumman will have 18 months to migrate the current biometric capabilities of IDENT, including latent fingerprint matching, create a new data architecture, and a new system development and testing environment for HART. In the second increment, which OBIM hopes to accelerate somewhat, the company will provide more robust face and iris matching capabilities, a new biometric fusion capability to provide better outcomes for multimodal biometric search results, and improved business processing workflows.

In future increments, DHS hopes to add additional biometric modalities, such as voice recognition and potentially DNA.

NEC Corp.’s North American division provides IDENT’s existing face and iris recognition capabilities and will do so for the Northrop Grumman team. Gemalto is responsible for the fingerprint matching algorithms in IDENT and under Northrop Grumman for HART.

“When HART is fully operational, it will offer a broader range of biometric services to DHS, other federal government agencies, state and local law enforcement, the intelligence community, and international partners,” DHS says.