The Defense Department is increasing its focus on biometrics and expects a Capabilities Based Assessment (CBA) of long-term needs for this type of human characteristic- identifying technology to be complete this autumn, a senior Pentagon official said.

Alan Shaffer, principal deputy director for defense research and engineering, in an April 14 interview with sister publication Defense Daily said the CBA that began late last year will be ready in the “early fall,” and “will in turn lead to a budget and a S&T roadmap of what we have to develop next.”

The CBA takes “an independent look, at what things the [Defense] Department needs to be able to accomplish in the area of biometrics,” Shaffer said.

The CBA is now in development with U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), which has a Capabilities Based Assessment Working Group.

“JFCOM [is] going out and working with all the various combatant commanders and services, really to prioritize what we have to develop and when we have to develop those capabilities by,” Shaffer said.

The CBA will need to be vetted by the high-level Joint Requirements Oversight Council in the coming months, he said.

The end result will be guidelines “validating the prioritized capability needs,” he said.

“In the old days it would have been validating the operational requirement document, ORD. This really validates the capability shortfalls that we have in the department so then the rest of the department can go work on the shortfalls, the gaps, in some type of prioritized order.”

While some of the biometrics needs could be addressed with off-the-shelf solutions, the CBA also is expected to call for additional development.

In the shorter term, the Pentagon expects to deliver several key biometrics products by the end of 2009, according to written testimony Shaffer submitted to the House Armed Services terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee last month. They include: a DoD Biometrics Science and Technology Strategy and Roadmap; a modeling tool for biometric systems architecture and decision support; prototypical biometric collection systems for demonstration and experimentation; prototypical forensic collection, processing and exploitation systems for demonstration and experimentation; and data packages and white papers on standards and algorithm development.

The use of biometrics technologies, that help identify people by biological characteristics, has increased markedly in recent years in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shaffer’s office–Defense Research and Engineering–was assigned the principal staff agent for biometrics in later 2006, and an office was stood up that helps coordinate efforts within the DoD. A biometrics task force now meets once a quarter at the general-officer and flag-officer level across the DoD to “review where we’re going, review investment, and try to push more biometrics out into the field,” Shaffer said.

Most of biometrics work is being done by the Army in the biometrics program office, he said. The Army is the executive agent for biometrics procurement among the services. Shaffer said biometrics efforts would benefit, in an indirect way, as part of the Pentagon’s requested increase in funding for basic science and technology research in the fiscal year 2009 budget.

“Biometrics brings in a lot of basic research, especially when you’re talking about using different sensors at distance,” he said. “One type of sensor we’re looking at is called the terahertz sensor; it uses longer waves. Well, it turns out with the terahertz sensor you can pick up certain characteristic, certain trace chemicals. You can also tell a little bit about the bone structure, so that becomes a biometrics tool in a sense.”