Biometrics: The Army As Executive Agent for the Department of Defense
What is it?
Biometrics are measurable physical and behavioral characteristics that enable the establishment and verification of an individual’s identity. Once established, a biometric identity can be used to regulate individual access to DoD services and resources or to deny a criminal or adversary the ability to hide his true identity by stripping away anonymity with swift, accurate, and definitive identity verification. The DoD Biometrics Enterprise is an entity comprising the Department’s joint, Service, and agency organizations working together to integrate biometrics into the identity transactions needed to support military operations and departmental business functions. It is envisioned to be a flexible, global biometrics enterprise that protects rights and enables services for friends and partners while denying anonymity to adversaries. It is also envisioned to be a service that continuously adapts to any business process or military mission. Enterprise operations are governed by law and national and departmental policies. The Director, Defense Research and Engineering and the DoD Biometrics Executive Committee, composed of senior representatives from the DoD Components, provide oversight of the Biometrics Enterprise and its activities. The Army, as Executive Agent for DoD Biometrics, established the Biometrics Task Force to serve as the focal point for DoD activities to program, integrate, and synchronize biometric technologies and capabilities.
What has the Army done?
The Biometrics Task Force (BTF) has been executing the Army’s responsibility as DoD’s Executive Agent for biometrics through:
- Synchronizing and integrating biometric technologies into the greater identity management framework and strategy for the DoD;
- Performing requirements management, test and evaluation, product assessment, and standards development activities;
- Partnering with all Service (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines) training and doctrine entities to leverage existing documentation and develop new analysis documentation to help establish formal programs of record;
- Operating and maintaining DoD’s authoritative biometric repository in conjunction with the resources and management oversight provided by the Project Manager – Biometrics. This database provides storage, search, and match functions and submits results to users so that operational decisions can be made regarding detained individuals;
- Developing and promulgating biometric education and training policies and standards within DoD and the greater biometrics community; and
- Maintaining the Joint Biometrics Governance Structure to support the documentation, approval, and prioritization of joint and common requirements for the Biometrics Enterprise. The governance structure additionally provides a community of excellence for Services, joint, and common biometrics requirements.
The BTF maintains a public website at http://www.biometrics.dod.mil
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
In conjunction with the Joint Forces Command and the Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Army is working on a capability-based assessment of biometrics. The purpose of this assessment is to capture future biometric needs (FY10 to FY15) and conduct a gap analysis of current capabilities and future needs.
The BTF helps establish biometrics footholds throughout the combatant commands (COCOMs) using the current biometrics cells in Iraq and Afghanistan as models. The intent is for an expeditionary element of the BTF to deploy to a respective COCOM to provide the initial framework and subject matter expertise to establish a biometrics element within its headquarters. Thereafter, the BTF will serve as the primary reachback clearinghouse for biometrics-related issues and requests for information until such time as the biometrics cell is manned and equipped to operate autonomously.
The BTF is building joint, interagency, and multinational strategic partnerships for biometrics identity management by coordinating relationships between the DoD, the intelligence community, the U.S. government, and foreign governments via information sharing agreements and standards conformance efforts.
By programming for long-term investment and consistently enhancing biometric functionality, the Army is fulfilling its role as DoD’s Executive Agent for biometrics.
Why is this important to the Army?
Biometrics are key to intelligence and security efforts in the Global War on Terrorism. The ability to establish an individual’s identity with certitude and link the individual to past aliases or activities gives our Soldiers a decisive edge in fighting the Global War on Terrorism and aiding other U.S. government organizations. In addition, biometrics add a layer of security and a method of identity verification when accessing DoD and federal government spaces by further automating the identification process and increasing speed of entry.