The new head of the Army’s Biometrics Identity Management Agency (BIMA) is working to transition the military’s biometrics programs, capabilities and processes from a rapid reaction effort to one that is “institutionalized” to support long-term capabilities.

“So we are transitioning from a state where we have urgent capabilities that are in the field and are being refreshed to programs of record,” Dr. Thomas Killion, director of BIMA, says at the recent National Defense Industrial Association’s annual biometrics conference. “That is what will really allow us to institutionalize biometrics as a capability and a needed capability that will continue to be used in the future through out the Department of Defense.”

After the U.S. military began warfighting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, it realized it had an urgent need for identity management solutions, which included a heavy dose of biometrics, to help ferret out insurgents and terrorists. Subsequent programs included a biometrics-based database and matching system called the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), the Biometrics Automated Toolset, the Biometric Information System for Access, and some handheld biometric tactical collection devices, not to mention various standards efforts and other policy issues.

These various biometric-enabled systems have been used to get a better understanding of foreign nationals applying for work on U.S. operating bases in conflict zones and to hunt down persons involved in making and handling improvised explosive devices.

The rapid acquisition of the various biometrics systems and devices has driven “rapid growth of biometrics in the Department of Defense” that had resulted in a significant capability, Killion says.

However, these capabilities need to be sustained for the long haul, which means they need to become part of the routine defense acquisition process, he says.

“We’re working with the field and with the requirements community trying to establish those JCIDS (Joint Capabilities Integration and Development)-based requirements, the clear formal requirements that can lead to actual resources being put against programs and milestones being established to drive the acquisition of new systems and to sustain the capabilities that we have today,” Killion says.

BIMA leads DoD’s efforts to manage and integrate biometric technologies and capabilities as well as the operation and maintenance of its authoritative biometric database, ABIS. Killion’s agency doesn’t purchase biometrics, which is left to various program offices, in particular the Program Manager (PM) for Biometrics within the Army Program Executive Office for Enterprise Integration Systems.

Killion says the institutionalization of biometrics will create the program structure for resources to be put against various programs. Currently PM Biometrics is developing two programs of record toward this goal.

Killion says that one of the biggest priorities for his time is speaking with the various Combatant Commands and the requirements community to establish requirements to get formal requirements for biometrics in place so that they can be translated to programs of record.

One effort by PM Biometrics is called the Biometrics Enterprise Core Capabilities (BECC), which will evolve the current next-generation version of ABIS so that it can expand the database of records while still maintaining the rapid ability to match fingerprints and other biometric modalities and at high throughputs. BECC is moving toward a Milestone B decision in the fourth quarter of FY ’12 to enter an engineering and manufacturing development stage. The Next Generation ABIS (NGA) was developed by Northrop Grumman [NOC].

The demand for NGA services and storage continues to grow, Killion says, as the services and commands continue to explore new applications for biometrics and additional modalities are used to improve the matching process and identification of individuals.

Another effort heading toward a program of record will replace the currently fielded handheld biometric collection devices. The Joint Personnel Identification, or JPI v2, is also slated for a Milestone B decision in the fourth quarter of FY ’12. JPI v2 will eventually replace systems such as L-1 Identity Solutions’ [ID] HIIDE device, Cross Match Technologies‘ SEEK device and 3M Corp.‘s [MMM] Fusion device.

Another effort which is further out is called the Identity Dominance System (IDS) for Naval maritime boarding operations. Killion says a Milestone B decision isn’t expected for IDS until the FY ’14 timeframe.

One area Killion says he will be focusing on is improving the tools used to manage biometrics data, such as fusion algorithms to improve database matching performance, data quality, and search tools for larger databases. And as always, there remains a need to improve the battery life of the tactical collection devices while also lowering their weight and boosting their ruggedness, he said.