The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded Accenture Federal Services (NYSE:ACN) a nine-month, $30 million contract to expand international data-sharing capabilities and secure web services for the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), formerly the US-VISIT program. The Office of Biometric Identity Management manages biometric and biographic identity management systems that help federal, state and local officials determine if travelers can legally enter or remain in the United States. Work under the contract will decrease the time, cost and personnel required to support data sharing between the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and Australia. “OBIM enhances the security of U.S. citizens and visitors, facilitates legitimate travel and trade and helps ensure the integrity of the U.S. immigration system,” said Rocky Thurston, who leads Accenture’s work with the Department of Homeland Security. “This program has become a model of innovation, collaboration and high performance for DHS and the federal government.” Biometrics are unique physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, that can be used for automated recognition. Biometrics form the basis of OBIM identification services because they are reliable, convenient and virtually impossible to forge. OBIM currently stores 10-print digital fingerprints in its database. OBIM provides biometric information to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration. Upgrades under the contract also will enable biometric information to be shared in real time with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Defense. Accenture also will expand the use of secure web services for all stakeholders, making it easier and more cost effective to access existing OBIM data. The development of reusable “services” has allowed OBIM to dramatically decrease the time and cost for new users to access the system – from nine months to three weeks.