TAMPA, Fla.—The Defense Department this year is expected to release a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a contract to maintain and upgrade its existing biometric database, bringing the technology up to date and extending its service life until a new system is developed and deployed.

The current DoD Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) is version 1.2 and was deployed in the fall of 2014, giving the system more storage capacity for identity records, higher throughput for search queries, greater accuracy, improved search algorithms, and continuous watchlist availability. However, that system is already nearing the end of its live and, given the rapid evolution of biometric technology, is relying on outdated technology so it needs to be updated, Will Graves, the chief engineering with the Project Management Office (PMO) DoD Biometrics, said Sept. 20 during a panel discussion at AFCEA’s annual Global Identity Summit.

The forthcoming RFP to take the ABIS system to the version 1.3 configuration will come out in the first quarter of FY ’17 and contain a base year with five one-year options, Col. Don Hurst, project manager for PMO DoD Biometrics, told HSR in a Sept. 21 interview at the GIS. Hurst that that technology upgrades will include new software and hardware to improve performance and biometric matching capabilities, and either the 3.0 or 4.0 Electronic Biometric Transmission Standard (EBTS) that governs the exchange of biometric information.

The current EBTS standard used within DoD is 1.2, which no one else uses, Graves said during his panel presentation. He said the upgrades will enable data filtering around the sharing of information and improved data sharing with the U.S. and international partners.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime contractor supporting ABIS 1.2. The biometric matching software algorithms are supplied by MorphoTrust, which is part of France’s Safran Group.

The competition to upgrade ABIS to the 1.3 version is one of the three in the relatively near-term that system integrators and biometric technology providers are eying for potential work. The other two are a replacement for the Department of Homeland Security’s IDENT biometric storage, matching and sharing system, and a biometric air exit system to be managed by DHS’s Customs and Border Protection agency to verify that foreign nationals have left the country on their schedule flights.

The current DoD ABIS system stores, matches, shares and analyzes fingerprints, face and iris images, and palm prints. The system also features a fusion capability that can improve the accuracy of matching by using the various biometric modalities and also bringing in contextual data.

The ABIS system is also called BEC for Biometric Enabling Capability. Eventually, DoD wants to replace its existing capability with BEC Increment One, which would be more robust and scalable and also offer improved performance.

Graves and Hurst also said that in the future BEC might move into the cloud although Hurst said this would likely be resource dependent and be done incrementally. Graves said there also has to be a cloud environment that is “secure enough” to store personally identifiable information.

BEC Increment One would also have enhanced interoperability with various partners, Hurst said. Graves said that BEC is interoperable with the FBI’s Next Generation Identification multimodal biometric database while the process with the DHS IDENT system is “somewhat manual…but we are fixing that problem so we will be able to share watchlist information in real time coming up soon.”

A material development decision to begin proceeding down the path toward BEC Increment One is expected to be made in the first or second quarter of FY ’17 by the Army Acquisition Executive, Hurst said. The timing will depend in part on requirements documentation, he said.

DoD ABIS and the biometric capture technology used to feed the database are essentially used to deny anonymity to known and suspected terrorists, and enemy combatants. But some adversaries are very difficult to track.

Big Data

Applying “big data” is one thing the Army is looking at to make better use of biometrics and other data it might have access to.

Kathy DeBolt, deputy Capabilities Manager for Terrestrial and Identity and the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, told a panel at the GIS conference a critical gap facing the Defense Department is in “being able to identify, locate and track individual adversaries. This could be digital personas. This could be real people that do things and people of interest.”

DeBolt said the type of individuals that fit these profiles include the Boston Marathon bombers, the airport bombers in Belgium, and the recent bombings in New Jersey and New York, and the recent stabbing attack by an individual in a mall in Minnesota.

“These are persons of interest to us,” DeBolt said. “We don’t initially who they are but we have to figure out who they are relatively fast. But in order to do that we’re going to have to be able to go through a large amount of data. So some of the big things we’re finding out now is it’s not just the biometrics, the forensics, the positive identity but where do we go to look for that? How do we sort through all of that data that’s out there? How do we then tie that to a person and then identify who that person or that entity is that we need to work on?”

DeBolt also said that the Army needs to find ways to “search big data” to make better use of surveillance data found on CCTV and YouTube videos. “How do we search big data to find that needle in a haystack?”