DoD Biometrics Office Establishes S&T Priorities

The Defense Department’s office that is responsible for design, developing and acquiring biometric solution capabilities for different operating environments has developed a 30-year roadmap that includes current and potential science and technology (S&T) projects to meet warfighter requirements, an official with the office said earlier this month.


Biometric Automated Toolset-Army kit being used to collect fingerprints on an individual. Photo: Army

The roadmap includes near-term, mid-term and far-term projects that have been coordinated across relevant department components, Will Graves, the chief engineer for Project Manager DoD Biometrics, said May 2 at the annual Connect:ID conference in Washington, D.C. The office has also coordinated its efforts with key interagency partners such as the FBI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to make sure “we are not duplicating roadmaps.”

In the near-term, which is out to five years, PM DoD Biometrics is looking at stand-off and contactless collection capabilities, and has deployed two systems to Iraq that do contactless face, fingerprint and iris collection for protection of forward operating bases, Graves said. Force protection is a key trend in the use of biometrics, he said later in his presentation.

Near-term S&T efforts also include doing face recognition from video, he said, noting a capability is being deployed this year to the U.S. Central Command region, which will apply the technology to social media and the dark web for local commanders to create their own watchlists for people they “don’t want on their base.”

When an individual approaches a guard station, the video captured by the surveillance cameras will be checked against a watchlist on the backend that was created from social media and dark web posts, allowing guards to know a “bad guy” is approaching them before he can “actually interact with the guards,” Graves said.

Another near-term capability that is part of the S&T program is putting more biometric matching capabilities on devices carried by soldiers “in the last tactical mile,” where there may not be a network to send collected data through and have it search against the DoD authoritative biometric database, called the Automated Biometric Identity System (ABIS), Graves said. The current systems are 10 years old and have limited onboard storage capacity, he said.

Mid-term projects are for capabilities 10 to 15 years out. Last August, PM DoD Biometrics hosted a Big Ideas Day to hear from industry to incorporate their ideas into the roadmap, Graves said. Another industry day will be held this September in conjunction with the annual Federal Identity Summit in Tampa, Fla., he said.

The long-term portions of the roadmap look out to 30 years, and are what Graves described as “Buck Rogers” stuff like pulling DNA out of the atmosphere.

Graves is also standing up a Biometric Systems Interoperability Lab (BSIL) that is aiming to provide a capability to the DoD for anyone to bring their device in to test if it aligns with the department’s biometric standards. If it does meet standards, the plan in the future is to be able to provide a certification “that you conform to the enterprise, which should speed up the acquisition of things,” he said.

If a system doesn’t meet standards in the BSIL evaluation, the office will generate a report on where a device failed, Graves said. Ultimately, the lab will move to demonstrating system performance, he said.

Graves said his office is looking into non-cooperative face recognition to be able to identify images that are “non-ideal.” This summer, the office will evaluate long-range—out to 200 meters—face recognition from a binocular system, he said.

PM DoD Biometrics is also evaluating a man-portable Rapid DNA solution developed at the University of Virginia.

Future projects include physical and logical access, and data sharing and encryption with privacy protections given increased data sharing with international partners, including NATO, Graves said. Other projects included spoofing countermeasures and rapid enrollment capabilities, such as fingerprint, face and iris on the move, he said.

Two of PM DoD Biometrics’ long-standing programs are the Biometric Enabling Capability (BEC), which is the ABIS system, and the Biometric Automated Toolset-Army (BAT-A), which are the collection devices used in the field. Graves said that the BEC is undergoing a service life extension program and that the requirements document for the first increment was signed in mid-April, initiating the start of an acquisition strategy.

The office is also initiating a next-generation collection capability effort, Graves said.

Another key trend that PM DoD Biometrics is holding to is the use of commercial-off-the-shelf solutions (COTS), Graves said. The Army isn’t looking to build its own biometric capture capability so COTS solutions will be looked at first, he said.

Graves also said that an analysis of alternatives is underway to modernize BAT-A’s server technology. It’s possible that there will be servers forward deployed regionally. If this can be done, it might make more sense to use servers in the cloud.

“So we’re looking at more cloud-based technologies when we modernize both systems,” he said.

In addition to BEC and BAT-A, PM DoD Biometrics has two new product offices, one called Near-Real-Time, which is a networking effort around biometrics for the CENTCOM area so that if a soldier in the field can search against “an authoritative repository and get a response in three minutes,” Graves said.

The other office is for international programs, which are growing, Graves said.

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