The Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner (DEAC) John Wagner is being recognized as a visionary, innovator, and collaborator. DEAC Wagner proposed three innovations and went way “above and beyond” traditional approaches.  He partnered with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) CIO team and external stakeholders to realize a “game-changing” Biometric Entry/Exit solution/service that is radically changing the face of travel, while comporting with all applicable security, privacy and federal laws:

  1. Customer-Focus:  ensure faster processing for all travelers with security matching “in seconds”, with “your face is your token” approach making things simpler and thereby, ensuring a better customer experience 

  2. Safety and Security:  ensure nearly 100% matching for all travelers “in advance” and with additional ability to invoke secondary safety check mechanisms “real-time.”

  3. Public-Private Ecosystem and Partnership:  Business process reengineering drove technology solutions to achieve these faster and easier processes.  An innovative business ecosystem allowed true public-private partnerships, detracting from traditional large USG program approaches.  To take part in the service, entry and exit data must be provided.  For example, airport authorities and airlines can provide requisite data/information and services with SLAs to meet the USG’s defined standards and processes with letters of commitment.  They are signing up (of their own volition) in this “win-win” proposition of a faster, better and more secure way for travelers which benefits Industry and the U.S. Government.  



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John Wagner worked tirelessly across organizational lines with CBP, DHS, US government, and external Industry stakeholders to ensure that the service continuously improved to the highest efficiency levels.  He established the strategy, regular oversight, relentless follow-up and personal participation to ensure success.  He fully supported and encouraged ideas for improvement, as long as they met the principles of “faster, better and more secure”

CBP’s primary mission is to safeguard America’s borders from dangerous people and materials, while enhancing the Nation’s global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel. Part of this mission is to enforce United States (U.S.) immigration laws. A key aspect of U.S. immigration law is that most foreign nationals enter as a “nonimmigrant visitor” or on a temporary basis with a fixed period of admission time and are required to depart the U.S. before that admission time expires.  To effectively enforce U.S. immigration law, CBP must have the ability to 1) record departures of foreign nationals from the United States, and 2) do so in a way that provides the highest assurance of travelers’ identities. CBP’s enforcement of this key aspect of U.S. immigration law was limited without the ability to determine if and when foreign nationals depart from the United States. 


Biometric verifications of travelers upon entry and exit provides CBP the required high levels of assurance of travelers’ identities. The Biometric Entry-Exit Program allows CBP to advance departmental and agency goals of securing U.S. borders by preventing unauthorized travelers from entering and exiting U.S. ports of entry. The Biometric Entry-Exit Program’s goal is to provide the capability for fast, efficient, and appropriate biometric identity verification of all travelers, including U.S. citizens, entering and exiting the U.S. The program’s acquisition strategy is to develop, implement, and maintain capabilities that apply the needed resources, enhanced processing, and state-of-the-art biometric technology to enhance traveler identity verification. The focus of the program was the development of a biometric matching service, which enables biometric identity verification against existing government databases for air, land, and sea travel segments.


The Biometric Entry/Exit Program Innovation and Solution

Traveler Verification Service (TVS) is a cloud-based facial biometric matching service that enables External Partners and Other Government Agencies (OGA) to confirm passenger identity against a trusted source. The facial recognition matching solution was deployed by CBP to support OFO’s Congressional mandate to implement a Biometric Entry/Exit system. TVS is using cutting edge technology in Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud service platform in order to facilitate the identification of travelers entering and exiting the United States. The TVS is currently being utilized in the air, land, and sea environments with partnerships with various airline and cruise line stakeholders to install photo capture solutions.​


How does TVS Work? 

At a high level, TVS is a three step process: 1) Build the gallery, 2) Receive a match request and perform an identify operation, and 3) Return the match response. TVS capitalizes leading edge and Industry Best Practices in technologies, architectures and best practices and services that provide security, tremendous performance, high availability, resiliency, dynamic scalability, and improved user experience.  These include Gallery Assembly; industry-leading and FEDRAMP-compliant Cloud Technology; the top rated NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) matching algorithm; High Security and High Availability; and innovative solutions for developing and testing with a “bring your own data” construct where users can create their own manifest galleries match against them.  

The CBP Biometric Entry/Exit has provided numerous benefits:


  1. Growth in Service Providers: On an average day, TVS processes around 35,000 passengers across 250 flights. In FY19, the use of TVS in the Air Exit environment expanded at 26 airports and at 50 ships at 6 different seaports. To date, CBP has received over 40 commitment letters from airline and airport authorities, as well as, letters from almost every cruise line to outfit their respective ports 

  2. Faster Processing: Due to the rapid processing capabilities, airlines have been able to cut down the time of the boarding process, while increasing security. The system has greater than 98% match rates in under 2 seconds for passenger processing. Stakeholders in the sea environment also reported quicker debarkation 

  3. Easier and Safer Travel:  TSA is working together on TVS solutions and deployed phase II of the joint pilot in Atlanta in FY19. This gave TSA officers real-time response thereby allowing nearly a million travelers to keep their travel document in their pocket and use their “face as their token.” Delta opened the first fully biometric terminal allowing travelers to/from check-in/bag drop, through TSA, and board their international flight all with just having to take a photo at the various points.