CONTRACT AND BUYERS GUIDES: PM DoD Biometrics: Supporting Today's Warfighter

Developing Tomorrow’s Battlefield Biometric Capabilities

As the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) drives an ever-increasing demand for effective identification technology, biometric systems are being used to deliver these capabilities to the battlefield.


Biometric data includes measurable physical or behavioral characteristics used to uniquely identify an individual, such as handwritten signatures, iris scans,
fingerprints, facial recognition, voice recognition, thermal signatures and DNA samples.  The value of biometric systems lies in their ability to reliably and consistently identify an individual – thereby denying a terrorist or enemy the power of anonymity.  To date, more than 16,000 individuals have been placed on the Department of Defense (DoD) Biometrics Watchlist (a list of identities of interest to the Department), including more than 1,800 high value targets; more than 1,600 insurgents have been placed on ‘security hold’ – significant milestones in force protection.


Urgent warfighter needs gave rise to a number of pilot programs, Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations (ACTDs) and Rapid Equipping Force (REF) projects, which have proven their value in supporting the Army’s ability to capture, transmit, store, share, retrieve, exploit and display biometric and related information from multiple targets.  The DoD collects, references and analyzes biometric data for timely individual identification or verification in support of mission goals such as force protection, intelligence, logical/physical access control, identity management, credentialing and interdiction.

batIn order to strengthen and improve DoD biometric capabilities and promote interoperability across biometric systems, DoD selected the Army’s Project Manager DoD Biometrics, under PEO EIS, to serve as the focal point for developing materiel solutions for biometrics.  PM DoD Biometrics’ mission is dual:  to support today’s warfighter by improving and enhancing current biometric systems; and to develop future enterprise biometric systems that will meet emerging warfighter needs.


Current Biometric Initiatives
PM DoD Biometrics currently supports several biometric collection and processing systems, including the Biometrics Automated Toolset (BAT), which is the most widely proliferated system, deployed worldwide.  As of February 2008, DoD personnel had enrolled more than one million persons of interest using BAT systems.  BAT is a multi-modal system that collects and compares fingerprints, iris images and facial photographs, along with biographic and contextual information.  BAT supports a wide range of tactical, operational, and strategic military operations, such as interrogations, combatant/detainee enrollment and management, local hire screening, population management, checkpoint maintenance and base access control.


The Biometric Identification System for Access (BISA) is a force protection initiative that collects multi-modal (fingerprint, facial and iris) biometric information and biographical information to produce a smartcard or PIN badge to control local and third-country nationals, coalition forces and a limited number of U.S. citizens accessing U.S.-controlled facilities in Iraq.  BISA is self-contained – it includes all biometric enrollment, conversion and storage, transmission, badge production and verification devices.  When a BISA badge holder requests entrance to a controlled facility, the individual is verified through a match between a live scan of the person’s fingerprint with the fingerprint stored on the smartcard.


Based in Fort Belvoir, Va., PM DoD Biometrics has program staff in West Virginia and Ft. Huachuca, as well as a forward organization in Iraq and a biometric cell in Afghanistan to help support warfighters in deploying, maintaining and operating these systems.


Battlefield experience with biometric systems has already impelled one major system advance – the redesign and upgrade of the prototype Automated Biometric Information System (ABIS).  This system is the authoritative DoD database for biometric data collected from detainees, enemy combatants and other persons of interest.  Over a year ago, PM DoD Biometrics awarded a contract for the development of the Next Generation ABIS (NGA).  The system is being built on a high-performance blade server computing platform, using a service-oriented architecture to enable ease of scalability and continuity of operations (COOP). The system will have the flexibility to accommodate future biometric capabilities, including the storage and analysis of new biometric
modalities, and multi-modal biometric fusion (the ability to analyze multiple biometric modalities simultaneously).  The system was designed to meet current and future battlefield needs to process a rapidly growing volume of biometric records with improved processing and transmission capacity, and will
also be able to accommodate future biometric capabilities and technologies.


Future Directions in Biometrics
The Army is currently investigating a number of biometric collection methods, including voice recognition, facial recognition and palm prints as well as other devices for possible inclusion in the DoD Biometrics program. According to Colonel Ted Jennings, Project Manager for DoD Biometrics, collection devices must be flexible enough to support varying communications methods and protocols and able to support multiple biometric modes, biographic information and contextual information.  The collection systems will provide near-real-time matching to include matching against current watch lists, as well as submitting Biometric Service Requests for matching from theater and authoritative biometric sources. The near-real-time matching capability assists the joint warfighter in deciding to retain, capture or release an individual.

iris scanOther biometric measures under consideration include handwriting, gait (walking characteristics) and even vein pattern recognition. “Biometric modalities of all kinds are being investigated to serve the needs of joint warfighters and improve effective identification on the battlefield,” Jennings explained.


“However,” he continued, “these biometric modalities are being developed by organizations all over the world, for a wide range of uses, even outside the military’s jurisdiction.”


For example, iris scanning technology is already being used for everything from voter identification, to enhancing identification of images captured on security cameras, and even for counting the number of eyes that scan billboard advertisements.


In the coming year, the PM DoD Biometrics office will continue working to enhance the NGA as well as the tactical collection devices.  The key, according to Col. Jennings, is staying in sync with the warfighter’s needs. “We’re continuing to respond to current requirements, as well as work with the warfighter community on emerging requirements to help guide our actions moving forward,” said Jennings. For example, “protecting the biometric and related information used for identification purposes will likely be one of our biggest challenges in the future,” he explained.


PM DoD Biometrics will continue to investigate new biometric technologies that could likely aid the DoD’s identification processes. Said Jennings, “Part of our job will continue to be looking ahead, trying to forecast what the DoD is likely to need, even years from now.”


Developing Enterprise Biometric Capabilities
The DoD’s Biometrics vision is to provide responsive, accurate and secure biometrics to any location at any time, protecting the nation through identity dominance.  PM DoD Biometrics is focused on developing enterprise biometric capabilities that will be interoperable with DoD and other government systems, and encompass new biometric technologies.  Key features include:

* Multi-modal storage and matching (fingerprint, palm, iris, face, etc.)
* Service-oriented architecture
* Management portal
* Watchlist capability
* Formalized 24x7 help desk
* Enterprise latent examination approach
* Continuity of operations (COOP)
* Interoperability with FBI and DHS systems
* Integration with the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) Biometric Intelligence Repository (BIR)


PM DoD Biometrics’ system-of-systems approach uses a mix of existing capabilities and new systems to achieve identity dominance, identity management and identity protection. The enterprise system will support core functional areas of the DoD Biometrics Process, including Collect, Match/Store, Reference/Analyze, Share and Act.  These functions provide the ability to establish a biometric-based identity to meet DoD mission needs in operations and daily processes. 

To date, more than 16,000 individuals have been placed on the Department of Defense Biometrics Watchlist (a list of identities of interest to the Department), including more than 1,800 high value targets; more than 1,600 insurgents have been placed on ‘security hold’ – significant milestones in force protection.

The DoD’s biometrics enterprise system-of-systems will likely be capable of multi-modal storage and matching of a variety of human characteristics from fingerprints, to palm prints, iris scans and even facial features.  The system will use a service-oriented architecture to provide end-to-end feedback and integration with external links to other systems. It will also enhance interoperability with external biometric collection and intelligence systems, including the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).