TAMPA, Fla.—The Defense Department this year is expected to release a Request for Proposals (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 Defense Department 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system is already nearing the end of its life and, given the rapid evolution of biometric technology, is relying on outdated technology and so it needs to be updated, Will Graves, the chief engineer with the Project Management Office (PMO) DoD Biometrics, said Sept. 20 during a panel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 Defense Daily in a Sept. 21 interview at the Global Identity Summit. Hurst said 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.

Col. Don Hurst, Project Manager PMO DoD Biometrics. Photo: U.S. Army
Col. Don Hurst, Project Manager PMO DoD Biometrics. Photo: U.S. Army

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 United States 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 three in the relatively near-term that system integrators and biometric technology providers are eyeing for potential work. The other two are a replacement for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) IDENT biometric storage, matching and sharing system, which will be called the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology 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 scheduled 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 ABIS capability with BEC Increment One, which would be more robust and scalable and also offer improved performance.

BEC Increment One potentially would also feature additional biometric modalities such as voice and DNA reference depending on requirements, Hurst said. He also said that that Increment One might feature virtualization, although any move to the cloud would be phased in based on available resources. The current ABIS system is based on a blade server architecture.

BEC Increment One would also have enhanced interoperability with various partners, Hurst said.

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 is essentially used to deny anonymity to known and suspected terrorists.