Sticker Shock Follows Kansas Fingerprint System Ask

Kansas Bureau of Investigation CIO Joe Mandala presented to legislators about the dire need to replace the state's Automated Fingerprint Identification System by 2022 or risk a complete failure.

by Patrick Groves / August 23, 2019
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The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) painted a dire picture for legislators earlier this week when agency CIO Joe Mandala informed an IT committee of a possible $8 million price tag to upgrade the state’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) or run the risk of statewide failure.

AFIS has both the hardware and software used to collect, store and compare fingerprint records using a computer to scan and digitally encode fingerprints so that they can be processed by computers, according to a report included in KBI’s legislative briefing book for the 2019 session.

The system currently analyzes about 120,000 criminal justice inquiries annually. Kansas’ AFIS, manufactured by MorphoTrack, now IDEMIA, was stood up in 2007. The vendor notified KBI in 2016 that it would no longer provide maintenance for the product after the contract with the state expires June 30, 2022.

“I think as soon as we became aware of this system and that it’s no longer being supported, we would have come forward and we would have pushed it, but there are other demands and other concerns, not just within IT, but operationally across the agency, that require attention,” Mandala told legislators. “It becomes a matter of prioritizing what those needs are and pushing those specifically. I think we have time to get this done still. I think we basically laid forward a strategy where we would be able to achieve this goal with enough time in hand to make sure that we didn’t put the state or our citizens at risk.”

Rep. Kyle Hoffman, chair of the committee, said he and his colleagues were initially shocked by the ask and by the delay in a pitch for funding. He said that while his committee can’t act, it can make recommendations to other legislative bodies with more clout.

“As far as the program, itself, it’s very vital and we’ve got to have it,” Hoffman told Government Technology. “My gut feeling is we will find the $8 million for it, but I think KBI will probably get a little bit of maybe a tongue lashing from some lawmakers.”

The $8 million cost estimate is at the higher end of the spectrum, according to the KBI report. A more accurate depiction of the money needed will come out of a feasibility study, started in 2017 and on track for completion in September. The legislative report gives a ballpark figure of between $3.3 million and $7.6 million to replace AFIS with Advanced Fingerprint Identification Technology (AFIT), which increases fingerprint matching from 92 percent to 99.6 percent.

“For our particular vendor, that we have, we are behind,” Mandala said before the committee. “For other particular vendors, I can’t speak to that, but overall in terms of technology we are behind the curve.”

AFIT will be better able to send and receive information from the FBI, such as palm print submissions, iris scans and access to an overall enhanced biometric identification repository that includes tattoos and scars. KBI plans to pay for the installation of AFIT over five to six fiscal years, the report states.

“If the system is not replaced, there is a significant risk that it will fail,” Mandala said in his opening statement. “A failure of this system would cripple criminal justice and public safety operations across the state, most directly at local law enforcement agencies. It would mean that record checks for positions of trust (teachers, child care, etc.) could not be conducted. The risk to public safety is significant.”

Mandala told Government Technology that the point of failure for AFIS could come from the aging hardware that is currently maintained by IDEMIA. He said that all vendors specializing in identification technology are being considered in the feasibility study, which will be followed by the development of an RFP.

KBI’s current plan, as explained to legislators, is to construct the replacement to run concurrently with AFIS for a time.

“We would operate in parallel with the old system while the new system is being built and then be able to hand it off so we would not be without maintenance,” Mandala told the committee.

Office of Information Technology Services (OITS) spokeswoman Courtney Fitzgerald said her agency does not aid in the development of department-specific systems unless they need to use an OITS-owned network, data center, mainframe or other enterprise resource, which does not apply to KBI.

Hoffman said he clarified with Mandala exactly when a budget proposal for a replacement to AFIS would come before the Legislature and learned that an official ask will be made to both legislators and the governor’s office for fiscal 2021.

“That took a little bit of the shock out of it because we realized that was the reason why we hadn’t seen it,” Hoffman said. “We will be able to have a full look at it and not have to rush into it. It won’t be a supplement; it’ll be an actual budget request.”

He said he has requested KBI return to present an overall five-year plan during the committee’s next meeting in October so that legislators are aware of the agency’s future technological needs.

“That’s a part of our charge with this interim committee is to try and bring all of this out a little bit more so that these surprises don’t happen,” he said.

Hoffman said Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision to change operations from a biannual to an annual budget could have also concealed KBI’s request due to its year-by-year focus.

“Gov. Kelly is committed to keeping our communities safe and ensuring that law enforcement has the tools necessary to do their jobs,” said Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office. “We look forward to working with the KBI and the legislature to determine the next steps for replacing the aging AFIS system.”

Mandala told Government Technology that KBI must ensure the replacement is secure from cyberthreats, integrates well with the local, state and national justice information ecosystem, and is able to meet and grow with identification demands.

“We are ahead of some states, but I would say that we are slightly behind the curve if you normalize all the states in terms of technology adoption,” he said.

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