Early last month Pentagon Acquisition Chief John Young directed that the DoD Biometrics Office, led by the Army, be designated an Acquisition Category 1 (ACAT-1) program, initiating a process that is expected to lead to the various programs managed by the office to have their own budget lines beginning in the FY ’10 budget request that will go to Congress early next year.

The Sept. 2 Acquisition Decision Memorandum says the Biometric Enterprise Core Capability (BECC) and the Biometric Family of Capabilities for Full Spectrum Operations (BFCFSO) are included in the ACAT 1 designation (TR2, Sept. 17). The BECC refers to the Defense Department’s current and next-generation biometric database, commonly know as ABIS for Automated Biometric Identification System. ABIS stores fingerprints of known and suspected terrorists and enemy insurgents.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is developing the next-generation ABIS, which will eventually feature other biometric modes such as facial and iris images.

The BFCFSO refers to a series of tactical biometric collection devices currently in use by the Army in the Iraqi and Afghanistan operational theaters and elsewhere. These devices include the Biometric Automated Toolset (BAT), which consists of several components for the capture of different biometrics, and the handheld unit called HIIDE that can capture iris images, a digital photograph and a single fingerprint at a time. The BAT effort is integrated by Science Applications International Corp. [SAI] and HIIDE is developed and produced by L-1 Identity Solutions [ID].

With the ACAT-1 designation, the BECC and BFCFSO will become programs of record, meaning they will compete within the Army’s annual budget process for funding. But it also means that these programs will have higher visibility in terms of obtaining regular funding. Currently, these efforts are being supported by the supplemental budget process to fund the ongoing wars, which means funding sources could be harder to come by as the wars wind down of if the budgeting process is ended.

“This overarching designation is assigned to: ensure that development, acquisition, and fielding of biometric capabilities across the Department supports common, joint, and service-unique requirements; and provide a framework in which biometric developers and users can program and budget sufficient resources to support DoD biometrics needs,” the decision memorandum states.

The Army is the executive agent for DoD Biometrics and is responsible for piecing together the acquisition plan for current and proposed biometric programs, Young says. He adds that the service should aim for a Milestone B decision on development no later than FY ’10. Milestone C, which is a production decision, is slated for about 18 months later in FY ’11, Col. Ted Jennings, the project manager for DoD Biometrics, says at the Biometrics Consortium Conference in Tampa, Fla., last week.

Young, who is under secretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, will have Milestone decision authority.

Before the Milestone B decisions for the BECC and BFCFSO are made, an analysis of alternatives will have to be completed that examines the various capabilities DoD Biometrics is exploring. The alternatives analysis in turn will feed into a capabilities development document process, which describes the requirements. Once that is done, the programs will be better defined.

There is no guarantee that the next-generation ABIS effort or the programs within BFCFSO, all of which so far have are basically rapid prototyping projects aimed at getting biometric capabilities to the warfighter, will emerge intact at the Milestone B decision.

It could be these programs or something else, Thomas Dee, the lead for defense biometrics within the Director Defense Research and Engineering office under John Young, tells TR2. The capabilities development documents will be performed by the Pentagon’s Biometric Task Force for the BECC and the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command for the tactical collection devices.