The Business of Government Hour


About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

James Williams interview

Friday, March 25th, 2005 - 20:00
"Biometric technologies like finger scans are important. Fingerprints have a 96% accuracy rate today. Using biometrics doesn't take away your privacy; it protects it. It protects you from identity theft because nobody else can use your fingerprints."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 03/26/2005
Intro text: 
Innovation; Missions and Programs; Strategic Thinking; Leadership...

Innovation; Missions and Programs; Strategic Thinking; Leadership

Complete transcript: 

Friday, February 25, 2005

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning, and welcome to The Business Of Government Hour. I am Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of the IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.

You can find out more by visiting us on the web at

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program in the Department of Homeland Security.

Good morning, Jim.

Mr. Williams: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Todd Wiseman.

Good morning, Todd.

Mr. Wiseman: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Jim, let�s jump right into it. Could you tell us about the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, or US-VISIT, as it�s better known?

Mr. Williams: Yes, US-VISIT is a program from the Department of Homeland Security, and we really have four goals. One is enhancing security for citizens and visitors, and we always include visitors because we want people to feel safe in coming to United States; facilitating legitimate trade and travel. We know that 99.99 percent of the people coming to the United States come here for legitimate reasons: to study, to travel, to do business, see family, seek medical help, and we want those people to come.

The third goal is to ensure integrity in our immigration system. As the President recently said in his State of the Union address, we want to know when people are coming, and we also want to know when they are leaving. And I often talk about this as, it�s our house. We want people to visit; we want to know why they are coming; we want to know when they are coming; and we want to know did they leave.

And the fourth goal, that's as equally as important as the first three goals, is to protect the privacy of our visitors. As we collect additional information from visitors, we want them to feel safe in terms of giving us that information, that it will be adequately protected.

Mr. Lawrence: When you describe the goals so distinctly, it seems also clear and obvious, but could you tell us the history of the program; what was the business problem that this was designed to -- and how that all came about?

Mr. Williams: Sure, it is a program that was mandated by Congress first in 1996, that�s pre-9/11, aimed at really curbing illegal immigration. It was called in the law the �entry/exit system,� and it was a program under the legacy INS organization, Immigration and Naturalization Service, that really somewhat languished due to a lack of resources. Post-9/11, there were other laws passed by Congress mandating this entry-exit system, really aimed at combating terrorism post-9/11.

Secretary Tom Ridge, on April 29, 2003, as part of his 100-day speech of Homeland Security, grabbed hold of this program. He renamed it US-VISIT, and he chose that name to reflect the fact the United States is a welcoming nation. He also did a couple of other things on that day as part of his 100-day speech.

Number two, after renaming it, he elevated it to report to an Undersecretary, Asa Hutchinson, who is my boss, who unfortunately is leaving government service; an absolutely great leader. He elevated that to reflect the fact that it�s a horizontal program, and it has to deal with many different entities of DHS, and other parts of government.

The third thing that Tom Ridge did on that day was on top of saying we�ll meet the Congressional requirements to be at airports and seaports by the end of 2003, he said we�ll also start to collect biometrics. And biometrics means, for those visitors who are included in US-VISIT, we collect an electronic digital finger scan, which you can see if you go out to Dulles Airport, the international terminal; people come in, we are taking an electronic finger scan, electronic photographs of those people. It takes only a few seconds; it�s easy, but by doing that, we are enhancing security for this country.

Mr. Wiseman: How do you describe, or how do you think about the size of US-VISIT?

Mr. Williams: Well, the size of US-VISIT can be defined in many different ways. One is, if you look at the visitors who cross our air, land and sea borders, it�s about half a billion people a year that come into our country across any one of our over 300 air, land, or sea ports of entry.

And also, you can define it by size. As I said, it�s a horizontal program. You look at the government agencies that are involved in either, travel, trade or immigration, and you look at those different aspects of government, and that includes, just within DHS, it includes Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It includes Citizenship and Immigration Services. It also includes Department of State, and in fact, we work closely with the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, and that�s just at the federal level.

If we define how far it can go beyond that, we also work very closely with the private sector, and have had great partnerships with people like the Air Transport Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Travel Industry of America, Border Trade Alliance, as well as working closely with other countries. Because what we are really trying to do in the end is trying to improve travel for good people, and make it harder for bad people to travel.

As the 9/11 Commission said, travel documents are weapons in the hands of terrorists, and we need to find a way to take those away from them.

Mr. Wiseman: Can you tell us a little more about your roles and responsibilities as the director, Jim?

Mr. Williams: My role is to direct the program in terms of preparing the budgets, in terms of making sure we can meet the commitments of Congress on time, and making sure that we can deliver things that provide all the necessary benefits. The benefits being in line with our goals, benefits of enhancing security by giving the men and women who use US-VISIT, whether it�s a visa-issuing post in all of the 207 visa-issuing posts around the world, or in all of those ports of entry where we have customs and border protection officers, whose job it is to in a few seconds make a decision whether to admit somebody in the country or whether to deny them entry.

And what we are trying to do is give them a tool in their tool belt that they can use. At the same time, the role is to deliver on the benefits of facilitating legitimate trade and travel. We want to be able to provide for good people to be able to cross our borders a lot easier, and the goal is really to keep people motivated, which, frankly, is not a hard job.

I�m very, very fortunate to work with some incredibly dedicated and super-intelligent and just phenomenal people. Frankly, I never think of this as anywhere near a one-person job. It�s not even within my organization because we work so closely with other organizations. It�s everybody involved in this, a rallying around these external goals. And it�s really just making sure those people have the resources they need. And as we implement this system, make sure we can work with our policy folks; make sure as we implement new business processes and new technologies, they�ll harmonize with the right policies.

Mr. Wiseman: What were your previous positions before becoming the director for US-VISIT?

Mr. Williams: Well, my last job was working at the Internal Revenue Service, for about 12 years, where my last job there I was a Deputy Associate Commissioner, program management for the IRS modernization, which I am happy to say has had some great successes, even last year, rolling out some of the toughest programs in government. And I�m glad that I played a small part in that. Prior to that, much of my career was spent in Federal Procurement, in the acquisition arena, where I was director of IRS procurement. I also worked on major telecommunications procurements at GSA. Actually, it was pretty exciting times when we worked there, because it was right around the time of the AT&T break-up. I worked on FTS 2000 as a first contracting officer in that.

Also, I�ve worked for Department of Commerce on three separate occasions. Sometimes I refer to myself as somewhat of a migrant worker, because I�ve deliberately moved around. I like big challenges, and I like to have to prove myself all over again, and anything�s big and tough, you know, let me at it. So I�ve tried to deliberately move around; not to advance my career, just because I like challenges. I�ve never really planned where I want to be next; it�s just whatever seems to come up. Also, I�ve been involved in procurement of supercomputers, and negotiations with the government of Japan on some trade agreements, which was pretty exciting.

Mr. Wiseman: You mentioned an extensive background in procurement acquisition; how has that experience prepared you for this position, and how do you apply a lot of those experiences, because many folks in your role don�t have nearly the procurement acquisition experience you�ve had?

Mr. Williams: Well, when I look at heading one of these major programs in government, somebody asked me one time, �What�re you looking for?� And I said I really see four legs of the store if you want to define the perfect program manager, which I am certainly not. But number one is, you want to have knowledge of the business; you want to have knowledge of what you�re trying to provide in terms of this service to your eventual customers.

Secondly, I think you want to have knowledge of Information Technology, some basic knowledge of that, because all of these programs are about technology, as I see them. Third is about program management disciplines, which I�ve had some recent experience in. And the third is really acquisition in contracting management. And most of my background is in procurement and contracting, some program management. I�ve been around Information Technology my whole career involved in some major programs. But part of my philosophy is, I don�t have all the skills necessary, all of those of that perfect leader.

And fortunately, I have, again, great people, great leaders who work for me and work with me, and my style is, maybe it�s a little bit of Gestalt Theory, but it is to work with them in a collegial fashion, to let them manage their organizations, but at the same time at the top, get them to put on their corporate hats, and help me manage the program together.

And I also work very closely with my deputy, Bob Mocny, who has extensive background in the business and really complements me as well as other skills that he has.

Mr. Lawrence: You mentioned your management approach and style. Has it changed over your career in the sense that when you were doing procurements, to now leading major programs?

Mr. Williams: I�ll be honest, Paul, I don�t really go back and examine my leadership style. When people ask me what is it, I had never really given it much thought until somebody asked me that recently. I kind of think you hire the best people you can; you get them focused on the task and that�s how teams come together, really get people focused on the task, and you kind of follow the Golden Rule, where you treat people the way they want to be treated, and I�ve always found that things pretty much fall into place after that.

I think in this particular job, what may be a little bit different is coming in there in a post-9/11 mode, there was so many people who were so dedicated, and 9/11 is mentioned every day in our world. Always believing that there is a threat out there, and that we need to protect America, and I think that motivates people enough. I try to give them all the resources and the support, and also try to create an organization that has the right values.

Frankly, we would like to have one, because we work hard. People spend a large part of their time there. We�re an organization that likes to say "thank you� to people, because so many people help us in partnership. That�s, I guess, one of my philosophies, probably came out of my parents; try to have simply good manners around people.

Mr. Lawrence: That�s an interesting point, especially about values.

What are the details behind US-VISIT; what kind of information is collected; and how is it used? We�ll ask Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program, to take us through this when our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Jim Williams, the director of the US-VISIT program at the Department of Homeland Security.

Joining us in our conversation is Todd Wiseman.

Mr. Wiseman: Jim, how does US-VISIT work, and what is the procedure, and what can a visitor expect when he or she is entering and exiting the U.S.?

Mr. Williams: Well, first of all, it can start when people first apply for a visa overseas, and when they apply for that visa, it�s the same procedure that you�ll see at any airport, or seaport, or even in our land border crossings. The visitor, if they are a non-immigrant visa person, or a visa waiver person, those people are currently included in US-VISIT. They�re asked to take a few extra seconds to put their first left index finger scan, right index finger scan, and again, it�s an electronic fingerprint, and also takes a digital photograph. That goes on during the normal inspection when the people are coming in to the country.

We�ve estimated that it takes about 10 to 12 seconds to do that. After they put down their finger scans and they�re recorded, the inspector continues the interview and they press �Send,� and those fingerprints are checked against our watch list. Our watch list is updated daily with additional fingerprints from the FBI, and within five seconds, the inspector has his computer screen, either blinks green, no hit; or it blinks red, meaning it looks like it�s a match against a fingerprint that we have on our watch list.

And it�s really that simple, but we also enroll people so that we record their fingerprints and attach them to their identity. So if Jim Williams comes in to Dulles Airport one week, and we take the fingerprints and enroll those as Jim Williams' fingerprints, and the next time the person comes around, we just do a one-to-one match against the fingerprints we already have.

We also take those fingerprints that are in our database, what I would call the �Good guy database,� the people who have been enrolled, and we run them continuously against our �Bad guy database.� And in fact, we have instances where we�ve gotten hits of people who�ve come in to the country legitimately, but then we�ve had an update of fingerprints from the FBI, or from other sources that are in our watch list that then indicate the person is a hit, and we alert our Immigration and Customs Enforcement people who go out, and find the person.

Mr. Wiseman: You�ve described the biometric capabilities and the system around that. How accurate is that technology today?

Mr. Williams: Fingerprints are very accurate. Our accuracy rate today is 96 percent, and that means when -- say we already have somebody�s fingerprints either in our database and we get a fingerprint, we could match it 96 percent of the time. There are certain people who fall out of that; people, frankly, who don�t have fingers. But where we do have a false positive, that�s where the screen blinks red, because it looks like a match. Those fingerprints are immediately, within a second or so, sent to a human fingerprint examiner who can tell whether it really is a match, or whether it�s a false positive; meaning it�s a good person, it wasn�t the bad person we were looking for. They can clear this up within about three minutes.

Mr. Wiseman: Is there other kind of information captured in addition to the biometrics, and if so, how is that information used?

Mr. Williams: Well, prior to US-VISIT, biographic information was collected as, for example, if you�re flying here from Heathrow in London, the airlines are, most of them, are sending us electronic manifests of who�s on the plane, and those electronic manifests that are usually sent 15 minutes after wheels-up are checked against a biographical set of watch lists. That�s about 26 different watch lists combined into one that will then tell us is there a biographic, or date of birth, or passport number hit on that particular information.

And if there is, when the person arrives at, say, Dulles Airport, and their passport or visa is read, it will then identify has that record been flagged as being a biographic hit, combining with the biometrics, though. Biometrics helps do a better job of confirming identity.

We had a person who had come into the country who was a convicted rapist, and we were looking for this person, and realized after catching him that he�d come into the country using nine different aliases, four different dates of birth.

And another hit we had about the same time was a person from Jamaica wanted for drug smuggling -- clearly, an aggravated drug trafficker. And that person we found out had come into the country 60 times in the previous four years. And we know that people can buy fake passports, and false identities, and what our Chief Privacy Officer, Nuala O�Connor Kelly says, when you use biometrics, it doesn�t take away your privacy; it protects your privacy. It protects you from identity theft because nobody else can use your fingerprints.

Mr. Wiseman: You touched upon it, but if you could just repeat, about who exactly is required to enroll in the program?

Mr. Williams: Today, it�s anybody from any country that requires a visa to come to the United States, or anybody who comes in what�s called the visa waiver program. That�s a program where people from 27 countries, like England, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, can travel to the United States for business or pleasure for up to three months, and they do not need to go to the State Department to get a visa.

But we did, starting last September 30th, include those people in the program, because it�s so easy, it�s quick and it enhances security. And in fact, we've surveyed many travelers, and the vast, vast majority of them say they don�t mind. In fact, they tell us they feel safer. We�re hoping that part of what we see in the recent upswing in travel and tourism is due to the fact that people feel safer in traveling. And as one Customs and Border Protection Officer at Dulles told me, when people ask him, �Why am I doing this?� he says, �It�s to protect you.� And in fact, it does.

Mr. Lawrence: Could you tell us about the deployment schedule, where you are and what the plans are?

Mr. Williams: Sure, Paul. We first deployed according to this -- the number one Congressional Mandate to be at the airports and seaports, and we did that at 115 airports and 14 seaports for entry. And that started January 5, 2004. And we met the date; we were ready to go at the end of 2003, but there was a request from the private sector to delay the live implementation until we get over the nearest holiday weekend, which we did, even though we were ready to go. So we met that date on time. We also began pilot testing exit at the airports, and I�ll talk about that in a minute.

Our next goal was to be at the 50 busiest land ports of entry, and this is a congressionally mandated goal by the end of 2004. We actually met that ahead of schedule, and we started implementing November 15th and we finished December 29th, so we were ahead of schedule, and I�m pleased to say we�ve met all of our dates set by Congress, and I think that�s important to maintain credibility.

We�ve also begun pilot testing exit at airports, and what that means is, if you�re leaving out of, say, Dulles Airport or National, you�re taking an international flight, today, you go to the ticket counter, the e-ticket booth, you go to the TSA screening, and you go to the gate, there is no check-out of this country, and that�s different from other countries. If you leave through, say, Tokyo, or Poland or somewhere, you actually check out; you actually go into a separate physical part of the airport and you�d go through a check-out procedure. The United States doesn�t have that.

But in order to have integrity in our immigration system, as the President said, we want to know when people are leaving, and that�s how you ensure integrity of the people, follow the rule of the law in terms of their admission. So we�ve been trying to pilot test the biometric collection for people when they leave the country, and we do that through using two different pieces of equipment that we�re pilot testing.

One is a kiosk; it looks like an ATM machine. You can actually see one in BWI Airport right now. And the other is through a mobile handheld device, and we use that in two different ways. But generally it�s a device that was built for us that takes fingerprints, takes photographs, and also can read the machine-readable part of your passport, and that�s the letters that are at the bottom. They�re in a special font so that it can be machine-read.

I will tell you another thing we did as part of this, and this is something that we did in conjunction with The Department of State: was when we first deployed this, we wanted to better link databases. What Congress said was better link databases so that people have the best information they can at their fingertips.

And we put in for the first time a capability, when that machine-readable zone of the passport or visa is read, for the first time, the picture that was taken overseas by the State Department pops up on the screen, the picture of that traveler. And that allows us to see when people have photo-subbed passports. Meaning they�ve taken the photo of the legitimate person off and they've substituted their passport. And in fact, in one case the photo popped up -- a woman appeared on the screen; and in front of the inspector was a man. So there was clearly a photo-sub-passport.

And our eventual goal is to improve upon that capability, and we�re like any other information system, where our goal is to get the right information to the right people at the right time to make the right decision. And we�re trying to build in our next implementations a capability to build a database that has that information that is necessary for either a visa-issuing officer at State, a Citizenship and Immigrations Services Adjudication Officer, Customs and Border Protection, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent, anybody who encounters that traveler should have all the information about that traveler.

That helps good people get processed easier, and it also stops bad people, because everybody who has to make a decision about that traveler should have all of that information at their fingertips. And we link together databases, but we really want to build a composite of all of the information that should be available to those people for the future.

Mr. Lawrence: You talked about leaving the country and how other countries have an exit system. Where will VISIT put us in terms of the ways other countries think about this problem?

Mr. Williams: Well, we�ve been pleased to see that other countries have followed us in some sense and have been building up their Immigration and Border Management System. We are pleased to see that the EU announced for their visitor information system that they will also be taking fingerprints, digital index finger scans and digital photographs.

The Japanese recently announced for their visitor system that they were going to model it after US-VISIT. I believe England recently announced that they will also be taking fingerprints and photographs of the people coming in. And we think it�s important that all countries do what we do, and we follow their lead in many cases, which is strengthen our Immigration and Border Management Systems, but do it in a way that follows standards.

And that�s what we have done is followed international standards as we�ve implemented this program, and we think that�s important, because the way you can start to harmonize global travel is to follow standards. So we�ve been very pleased that other countries have come to us many times and wanted to find out more about our program, and in fact, wanted to replicate it in their countries.

And, again, that is something that can only help good people travel easier, and our ultimate goal is to be able to expedite those legitimate people. But it also helps for us in the collective war against terrorism. It is really a war that every country has to fight. And the best thing we can do is fight it together.

Mr. Lawrence: That�s powerful about standards.

What other agencies are working with DHS on US-VISIT, and how are they collaborating? We�ll ask Jim Williams, director of US-VISIT to take us through this when The Business of Government Hour continues.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program in the Department of Homeland Security.

And joining us in our conversation is Todd Wiseman.

Jim, earlier, you�ve talked about the other organizations that you�re collaborating with, and so I�m curious, how have you collaborated? That�s often the challenge in sort of cross-government activities, is getting organizations to work together. How has that come about?

Mr. Williams: Well, part of collaboration is heavily dependent upon, I would say, constant communication, and enforcing mechanisms to get people together. We have an integrated project or product team that meets once a week; about 50 people in a room. And that�s people from different parts of DHS, including those ones I mentioned before: Customs and Border Protection, Immigration Customs Enforcement, including people like Coast Guard, Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as people from the Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of Justice who attend every time.

And that�s really a working-level broad meeting to communicate about some of the things that are going on. And then we have several other working groups that work on specific issues in which people from those different agencies are involved. We also have a US-VISIT advisory board chaired by the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, and that includes senior leaders like Janice Jacobs, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services, Department of State; people from Department of Transportation; Doug Baker from the Department of Commerce; two individuals from Department of Justice, and that�s just a collaboration, again, at the federal level.

We also have a bi-national working group with the government of Mexico that works very well. We are starting a group with Canada, and, again, that�s just sort of government. We also work very closely with the private sector, because what we really want to do is -- if you look at going through an airport, we want to be able to meld that experience, enhancing that security as part of the airline travel experience. And the airlines have been fantastic to deal with.

I can�t say enough good about the partnership from the airlines, the airports, the cruise lines, all of them have recognized the need to enhance security. They know we care very much about what they care about, which is facilitation of travel and facilitation of trade. We know, when dealing with the land border, that $650 million a day goes over the border between U.S. and Mexico, and it�s double that with Canada.

And if we do something that builds Fortress America by just doing it as a federal government mandate to enhance security, the terrorists win. And so we know we have to protect our economic security, and that means that�s about partnership. So we need to have collaboration, communication, and partnerships with just about everybody: other countries, our government, even eventually dealing with the state and local, but also the private sector.

I often give a very futuristic example, which is probably not a good one in our lifetime, that someday, you may walk into an airport and all you need is your digital finger scan, because that is your credit card, and that is your boarding pass; it determines your screening level. And that does verify that you�ve left the country, and it provides you all the benefits you need, because when it comes down to it, it�s about identity verification and identity management; making sure you know who that person is, and attribute to them the right either benefit or the right level of screening.

Mr. Wiseman: How are you training the employees, both within DHS and any related cross-agency, to use the new functions and technologies as well as the biometric capabilities of US-VISIT?

Mr. Williams: Well, as we begin to roll out a particular increment, or a next phase of US-VISIT, we always look to develop a team together who would decide what the best way to train is. And we also want to try and fit that training within what is a reasonable schedule. And we test the training too, because ultimately when we are delivering technology, or delivering business process change, it�s something new, it�s a change. And it has to be accepted by the users. And our change, and our training about that change is about both how to use the technology, if you happen to be a government official, but it�s also in a way training our passengers.

We put out videos to tell people what the procedure�s going to be like; show them in airports, on airplanes, so that people could assist themselves in terms of getting through the process. And I think that kind of outreach and the training and awareness really helped everybody, because it made the learning curve not steep in terms of being able to smoothly implement this change. So whenever you�re talking about a change, training is critical, and training in the way that people want to hear it.

Mr. Wiseman: You talked a little bit about privacy earlier, but how do you address the privacy concerns of people coming through the US-VISIT system?

Mr. Williams: We�ve been very pleased with the kudos we�ve received about privacy, because we pay special attention to it. It is one of our four primary goals. The U.S. Privacy Act, and the e-Government Act, which contains privacy protection provisions, doesn�t apply to foreign visitors today.

Working with, again, Nuala O�Connor Kelly and the rest of DHS, we made the policy decision to apply it anyway, because we wanted people to feel safe in terms of giving us that information. What that means is that we publish systems of records notice in the Federal Register. We publish our privacy principles. And we operate in the very bright sunshine of day, answering all those basic privacy questions that anybody would want to hear.

And those questions are: what information are you collecting; how long are you keeping it; who are you sharing it with and what�re they doing with it; and how do you have privacy protections in there. And I think this is important. I�ve often said, in talking to groups, if you�ve ever been through the Spy Museum, they have a survey upon the wall, how many Americans think the U.S. government is keeping a secret database on them? What percentage of Americans? And the answer is 67 percent.

So I assume that if 67 percent of Americans feel that way, think about what our foreign visitors feel about what we�re doing. And so we have tried to operate extremely openly about privacy, and we�re vigilant about it. We have a privacy officer who works for me, Steve Jonkers, who does a great job. He�s been a little bit like the Maytag repairman waiting for the onslaught that really hasn�t come. We�ve had very few letters, mostly people feel like -- the husband and wife fingerprints gotten mismatched or mixed up in the system, or people writing to us for other things.

I think what CBP, Customs and Border Protection, has done in terms of their professionalism initiative, and in terms of what we�ve done to convince people they�ll be treated with respect, their information will be treated with respect, has really helped to lower those types of complaints.

Mr. Wiseman: You mentioned earlier that US-VISIT is really designed to positively affect trade and tourism. Are you seeing any evidence of that through the recent efforts that have occurred?

Mr. Williams: Well, actually yes, Todd, I think we have. At the land border, where we implemented this, we only implement it for those people going to what�s called secondary processing. That�s a small percentage of people coming through land borders. But as we did this, there was very, very much concern that we were going to slow down trade and travel at the land borders. And in fact, at all of the top 50 land borders, which covers about 90, 94 percent of the people coming across the land borders, which out of that about 450 million, maybe half a billion people, that�s probably 350 million people a year.

So everybody was concerned about what we�re going to do there. But in fact, what we�ve done in every one of those 50, we�ve accelerated the processing of people. One of our best examples is Laredo, Texas, where prior to US-VISIT being put into secondary processing, somebody who had to come in and get a visa, it was taking about 12 minutes per person.

Well, we put in some other procedures to print out a 994 in a pre-populated way; whereas before, the person, either the officer or the visitor, had to handwrite it and fill it out. Now that we�re printing it out automatically, that 12 minutes has gone down to about two minutes. So we�re very proud of that, that we have enhanced security and expedited people.

And that�s our ultimate goal. We�re actually building a strategic plan that Congress wants us to build, and then that is to look at what is a comprehensive view of what a 21st Century Immigration Border Management Enterprise should like. Looking across all of the different agencies across the different constituencies, and say, what should this look like in the 21st Century? How can we expedite all of these good people who want to come to America, and at the same time enhance security? And that�s what we�re developing right now.

And we think the benefits of investing in the borders are enormous. When you look at the competitiveness issues that are necessary in terms of efficient travel and trade, what we can deliver by just thinking about some of these busy ports of entry. If we could cut the lines in half, just imagine what it does in terms of the economic benefits and also the benefits of the intangibles. We want people to come to America to learn about America and explore America�s values, and in order to do that, we have to be something where it's easy to get here. And that�s really what we�re focusing on.

Mr. Wiseman: Can you tell us about the plans underway to centralize the management of screening and credentialing programs across DHS, and specifically within border and transportation security?

Mr. Williams: Yes, that�s in the President�s FY�06 budget that he delivered to Congress on February 7th, and he�s proposed an Office of Screening Coordination and Operations. And it�s really something that gets at the reason why DHS was created, which is really to integrate functions, and operate more effectively and more efficiently.

And where we had different screening going on, right now, across DHS, we need to be able to leverage that capability, and leverage that capability for efficiency purposes. So we don�t have many different institutions, whether they are Coast Guard or Citizenship and Immigration Services, TSA or Customs and Border Protection, building duplicate facilities unnecessarily. And we are also doing it in a way that it will leverage it across DHS so that we can effectively share information.

As the 9/11 Commission said, �Connect the dots.� We want to be able to do screening in a consistent manner, and not screen that same individual with one set of screening tools, say, and then do it a different way for a different individual who�s there for a similar purpose.

I think we also look at the opportunity of the Screening Coordination and Operations Office, and I think Secretary Michael Chertoff completely agrees with this, as I�ve heard him already speak, that this is part of the reason why DHS was created is to look for this integration, where you can start to leverage common capabilities. And when bringing these programs together in a centralized mode, the key to this is to be able to make the missions in the field more efficient.

I don�t believe in centralization for centralization's sake. I believe you do it so that you can enhance the mission of all of those field officers who have a job to do, and we can deliver them operational support services more efficiently and be more effective in terms of information sharing. So I think that�s part of the promise that's in the President�s Fiscal year �06 budget, and it also has other things in there about combining registered traveler programs.

And from the standpoint of a traveler, we look forward to the day when if you want to be an international registered traveler and a domestic registered traveler, you can be screened once. If you�re flying from Charles de Gaulle Airport, again, into Dulles Airport and you want to come in and you want to be an international registered traveler, which becomes something where you could register for that. But if you want to just spend a day in D.C., and then fly up to New York, you�re also a domestic registered traveler; one enrollment, one screening.

And you start to leverage that capability. And people who are travelers will appreciate that, because it really goes to the government trying to act in the view of how a person wants you to act. They want the government to act based upon who they are, not how the government is constructed. In the �90s, there was a lot of focus on customer service and focusing on the customer, and I think that�s a great thing. I had the opportunity to serve under Charles Rossotti, Todd, as you know, at IRS; a man who frankly is one of the smartest people I�ve ever met and really knew how to focus on this.

And I think focusing on delivering government services so that it looks like one government, and not separate stovepipes to the traveler was important. I think what happened on 9/11 then took us into the mode where we had to act as one government for security reasons. As Secretary Ridge used to say, �We�re no longer in a need to know, we�re in a need to share now.� So we need to be able to share with adequate privacy protections, but share in order to have effective security. And at the same time as we�re doing this, we�re meeting that goal of being able to act as one government from the customer standpoint.

So acting as one government for security against the bad people; acting as one government, that horizontal government, to really act the way the citizens would expect that one government would operate.

Mr. Lawrence: That�s an interesting point about one government.

How will US-VISIT be affected by advances in technology? We�ll ask Program Director Jim Williams for his thoughts when our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program, the Department of Homeland Security.

And joining us in our conversation is Todd Wiseman.

Mr. Wiseman: Jim, fingerprint scanning is probably just the beginning of new technologies that are rapidly being deployed within the US-VISIT system. What other technologies are in development, or do you view as key to the future?

Mr. Williams: I think the biometric technologies are important; whether it�s finger scans or even using digital photographs and looking at facial recognition. In the future, potentially, even iris scans. And we track all of these things. We work very closely with our Science and Technology, and also with NIST, part of Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Beyond that, as I talked about earlier, we want to be able to develop a database that has all of that right information, and that can also present it in a way that the different users want to see it. And that goes to a services-oriented architecture. Scott Hastings is our CIO; he�s been leading that effort and doing a fantastic job to make sure we can help develop what we need for US-VISIT, but also do it in conjunction with the DHS and the Federal Enterprise Architecture.

We�re also looking at pilot testing radio frequency, or some type of automatic identifier technology for the land borders at primary processing this summer. And then just looking at a way to do this so that we can electronically, for the first time, know who�s coming in, and electronically verify that people are leaving.

And we will do that in a way that protects privacy, because the information that would be collected is just a serial number that then links to a database; that allows us to protect privacy; meaning if you had a radio frequency card as a regular traveler across the border and somebody could read the card, all they�d read would be a number like 234589, they wouldn�t read any personal information that would be in the database.

So I think we�re always being tested from a technology standpoint to look at biometrics, look at automatic identifiers like radio frequency, but also just to continue to develop the information technology platforms that we need to really modernize what�s behind all of these missions, and make sure we can help unite the missions around the unifying technology.

We also have to look for more mobile devices, because we want to be there where the people are; where we have, for example working with the Coast Guard, we�re not going to be able to put a kiosk out there on a small boat for the Coast Guard. So we want to be able to work with them on a mobile device that can collect the biometrics of people, and have it done in a wireless manner, so that where they want to check against our watch list, they can collect those biometrics on a mobile device and check in a wireless way. So that we provide people the tools that they need to get their job done better.

Mr. Wiseman: How do you envision the US-VISIT program 5 to 10 years from now?

Mr. Williams: Well, hopefully we will have made significant progress in achieving a critical mass of what I think is a dream of -- not the dream, but the mandate from Congress and from the administration, to build out this biometric entry and exit system. And I would see some key components there. One is that we have the capability to biometrically confirm people�s entry when they come in through legitimate ports of entry, and when they leave, through a legitimate port of entry.

We also built that system in the middle that allows for the encounters with that person. For example, if you're somebody coming in under a tourist visa and you want to enroll as a student, you want to change your student visa, that�s Citizenship and Immigration Services doing their adjudication job. Or if somebody comes in as a tourist and you get sick and you�re in the hospital, and you have to extend your stay; again, we want to build an information system that is flexible, redundant, but it provides all of that right information to all of those decision-makers instantly, so that good people are not harmed by all the officials not having access to that particular information.

The US-VISIT system, that it is something that, again, works together well with the travel experiences and with the private sector to become something that people don�t even think about; it�s just something that makes them safer, and expedites what they need expedited, whether it�s dealing with the immigration system -- and in fact one of the things we�d like to do, we use paper I94s. Our goals eliminate that paper I94, and eliminate those parts of the Immigration Border Management System that frankly, when you look at them, they look like the 19th Century, not even the 20th Century, and take this into a 21st Century that serves the needs of legitimate trade and travel.

Things move very quickly around the globe. And we -- we the government have to be able to have systems and business processes to be able to keep up with that. And I often talk about our strategic plan and what we want to have, and I look at it as calling it an enterprise, or call it a system, or call it a community, where you have for the 21st Century the right business processes and the right enabling technologies and the right people, and the right infrastructure or facilities harmonized with the right policies that then make for a 21st Century border that meets all of those goals that I talked about, and looks like the 21st Century. That�s really where we�d like to be in 5 or 10 years.

Mr. Wiseman: You mentioned the international or global harmony with both trade and tourism. How much of your focus today has been on the international relationships, and knowing the future in 5 to 10 years will even be more globally interdependent?

Mr. Williams: Well, I would say with our partners and neighbors, Canada and Mexico, we spend a lot of time, but also with other countries we do, because as we�re trying to build our systems, first of all, we want them to be aware of what we�re doing so that their citizens are accepting of what we�re doing. So we work very closely on education, outreach with them in terms of those type of things.

In terms of other countries, there�s a lot of different work being done at different levels. We work very closely with the State Department. Maura Harty, the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Worldwide, has been an absolutely fantastic partner and her two Deputy Assistant Secretaries, Frank Moss for passports, Janice Jacobs for visa services.

And, in fact, Frank and I are probably going to head down to Australia to talk to the Australians and other countries about -- as we look at the challenge of biometric passports, which is another mandate of Congress, we would actually have a chip in your passport that would include your digital photograph and your other biographic information. This is new, and in future, it will no longer be just a paper document; it�ll have electronics inside of it -- and talk to the Australians who�re developing this about how do we make sure -- as they develop this technology, and the other visa waiver countries develop this, that it meets all the standards so that one reader could read any passport from anywhere in the world.

So what we�re doing is joint testing with them to make sure that our readers can read their passports; it can read a Japanese passport, a British passport, all of those things. And then how do we build those into what might be a new process that again might facilitate legitimate people�s travel. So we have constant communications around the world, and it�s important. And frankly, it�s enjoyable, because so many people are focused on the same things we are, which is combat terrorism, and expediting the movement of good people around the world.

Mr. Lawrence: Jim we have time for one last question. So I�d ask you to be reflective. You've spent your whole career working on some of the most important programs and problems we have. What advice would you give to a person, perhaps a young person, interested in a career in public service?

Mr. Williams: Well, first of all, Paul, I guess I would say I�m a shameless recruiter. I recruit anywhere I can: elevators -- I was -- I�ll tell you a funny story. I was once being audited by the IRS when I worked there, and I was really impressed by the young woman, and I said, �You know, you really ought to come work for me rather than working on this,� and she got up and left, and my wife said, �Jim, are you trying to bribe this one with a job?� And frankly, I wasn�t. I�m always looking for good people and -- I�ve been in government over 25 years, and I�ve never had a dull day.

I find it incredibly rewarding; I enjoy it. I love the job I have right now, and I would say join public service; that you will find satisfaction in your life, because you�re making a difference. And also, I think the difference in public service is, often, you get a much higher level of responsibility at an earlier age than you ever would in other places, just because there�s so many important, enormous endeavors that are critical to the nation, that you find yourself at a young age being thrust upon with these heavy responsibilities, and they�re exciting.

And you�re involved in huge change, and anybody who wants to come in to government, I would say, �Come on in, the water�s fine; jump in.� Frankly, it�s a lot of fun. It�s something that -- it�s interesting issues. You get to work with great people. And some of the people that I�ve worked in government -- most of the people -- vast majority, whether I�ve worked with them, for them, under them, are incredibly intelligent, dedicated people. They�re not people who work 9:00 to 5:00, trust me. They�re people who work practically around the clock, and it�s because they enjoy it.

They care about their families and loved ones, but they also care very deeply about this country and care about the work that we do. I happen to think that we are the greatest nation on earth, but I think that America is something that we always have to treat as something as very precarious; it�s something there we have to always make sure that, as John F. Kennedy said, �We have the best and brightest.�

And I always think it�s so neat when I see people like, you know, a Charles Rossotti, a Tom Ridge, or a Asa Hutchinson, Michael Chertoff, Michael Jackson, those people who you know could be making 10 times as much money, or whatever, and they care about this nation, and they come in and they provide the leadership we need to do the job that needs to be done to protect America. It�s what our founding fathers wanted for this country is those type of people to come in, and so it's often a good training ground too. If people want to go out to the private sector, you know, that�s fine, too. Get both sides of the fence, but if you want to have a successful job in the private sector, nothing�s wrong with starting in the federal government and getting that experience underneath your belt. You�ll enjoy it.

Mr. Lawrence: I�m afraid we�re out of time, Jim. Todd and I want to thank you for being with us this morning and then squeezing us in your very busy schedule.

Mr. Williams: Well, thank you, Paul. And if people want to learn more about our program, they can always go to the DHS website. That�s, and look for US-VISIT, and you can find out lots and lots of information. In fact, if you want to be on our e-mail mailing list, you can contact Anna Hinken. She�s our outreach director. I often introduce her as �anna.hinken,� and that�s, and then if you get on our e-mail mailing list, we promise we�ll never let you off.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, Jim. This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Jim Williams, director of the US-VISIT program in the Department of Homeland Security.

Be sure and visit us on the web at There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today�s fascinating conversation. Once again, that�s

For The Business of Government Radio Hour, I�m Paul Lawrence.

Thank you for listening.

James Williams interview
"Biometric technologies like finger scans are important. Fingerprints have a 96% accuracy rate today. Using biometrics doesn't take away your privacy; it protects it. It protects you from identity theft because nobody else can use your fingerprints."

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