Customer testing of the Defense Department’s upgraded biometric database was successful, clearing the way for an independent operational test of the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) this fall that would pave the way for a go-live decision later this year, the program office said this month.

The DoD ABIS 1.2 system was made operational briefly in Aug. 2013 but a number of problems arose, forcing the Defense Department to continue with the ABIS 1.0 system while fixes were made by DoD Biometrics and then tested before a round of customer testing in March. The upcoming independent testing is scheduled to take a month and will be done by the Army Test and Evaluation Command.

The decision to go-live with ABIS 1.2 rests with Douglas Wiltsie, the Armey Program Executive Officer for Enterprise Information Systems.

Among the fixes put in place include making the biometric identification templates compatible with the upgraded ABIS system, recreating customized Biometric Enabled Watch List (BEWL) generation found in ABIS 1.0 so that end users can narrow what they search, improving the routing of search queries against the BEWL, improving watch desk functions that support the BEWL, upgrading the examiner operating systems for the watch desks, and providing additional monitoring tools to better track system performance such as metrics.

The prime contractor for ABIS is Northrop Grumman [NOC]. The 1.0 version of the system became operational in 2002 and is capable of performing 15,000 daily transactions and storing 10 million records. The upgraded system will be able to perform 30,000 daily transactions and hold more than 18 million records. Other upgrades include security improvements, new hardware and software.

The customer testing was done by the Army Electronic Proving Ground to ensure the upgraded ABIS meets users’ needs. The tests included U.S. Special Operations Command, Central Command, Africa Command, the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manager for Biometrics and Forensics, the Departments of Homeland Security and State, the FBI, the Biometric Identity Management Agency, the National Ground Intelligence Center, and Customs and Border Protection.

The ABIS system was deployed as a quick reaction capability and isn’t a program of record although it is the Defense Department’s key biometrics repository that is used by warfighters to deny anonymity to terrorists and insurgents. The system is at capacity, which is why the ABIS 1.2 upgrade is needed.

U.S. warfighters use various tactical collection devices to obtain biometric images—such as fingerprints, irises and facial photos—of suspected insurgents and terrorists. DoD Biometrics had planned to begin an acquisition program for new devices but now plans to support existing systems for years to come.

“Our current strategy is to utilize existing biometric tactical collection devices through FY ’22 and to leverage the knowledge and experience we have gained in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” Lt. Col. Jackie Barnes, product manager for Joint Personnel Identification, told HSR via email in response to a query.