Navy to industry: Help us with biometrics

David Wennergren, the Navy's chief information officer, called on industry for ideas to help the Defense Department understand and spread the word about the use of biometric technologies for its identity management program.

Biometrics is one of the three technologies the Defense Department is using for its identity management program, along with public key infrastructure and common-access cards, also called smart cards. The identity management initiative will create physical and cyber credentials for about 4.5 million people who work for or are associated with the department, Wennergren said.

Common-access cards with PKI credentials are the cornerstones of the Defense Department's program to identify users and control their access to physical and cyber spaces. They enable department managers, for example, to use Web-based business processes by applying digital signatures to their transactions.

All Navy personnel will use common-access cards to access the Defense Department's network services and private Web sites. The Defense Department now is considering how to add biometrics to the next generation of common-access cards.

Speaking at a biometrics consortium today in Arlington, Va., Wennergren outlined seven aspects of the Defense Department's plan for its identity management program:

Standards-based solutions that meet real world challenges

Personal and role-based credentials

Support of high volumes of transactions

Seamless interoperability with coalition partners, allies and other federal agencies

Integrated identity management procedures for both cyber and physically secure communities

Privacy protection

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, issued in August, which calls for a policy for a common identification standard for federal employees and contractors

Wennergren also said the main challenge to using the technologies, especially biometrics, is overcoming resistance to change.

"We have a big cultural issue to work our way through," he said "If we can't explain [biometrics] to people, it sounds like a lot of money for a lot of Big Brother stuff."

Wennergren encouraged members of industry to contact him with ideas about how the Defense Department can incorporate biometrics into its identity management program at 703-602-1800 or

Members of industry are "lightening rods of change" in helping the Defense Department understand why and how biometric technologies will work, Wennergren said.

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