Provost Marshal General MG David Quantock and Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency (DFBA) Director Don Salo attended a demonstration of a biometric access control system at the Mark Center in Alexandria, Va., on Jan. 13, 2014. The demo was part of a 90-day Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) pilot program demonstrating the effectiveness of biometrics at the Department of Defense's new suburban high-rise.

"This is the future, no doubt," MG Quantock said after opening a door with his iris and fingerprint.

For three months starting in October 2013, employees and visitors at the Mark Center's VIP entrance used iris and fingerprint readers to enter. The system allowed users to choose the "modality" that was most convenient each time they entered the building. Permitting either iris or fingerprint reduced the chance of someone being unable to use the system to nearly zero.

The Mark Center opened in 2011 with the long-term intention of implementing biometric access control throughout the facility. With support and funding from DFBA's predecessor organization (the Biometrics Identity Management Agency), access control points were built with mounts for biometric readers and even with marks on the floor showing users where to stand. Lessons learned there will eventually be applied toward biometric access at the Pentagon and other Defense installations.

The pilot program used "two-factor" identification -- ID cards were used in conjunction with biometrics. "Cards are great for access controls, but they don't provide high or medium assurance," said Ryan Breeden, acting PFPA branch chief for Identity Credential Access Management. To get that assurance, biometrics ensured that the person presenting a credential was the proper owner of that credential.

More than 1,800 individuals used the entrance during the pilot program, totaling more than 10,000 separate building entries. Despite the volume and real-world conditions, the system held up. "We haven't been able to break it -- and that's a good thing," said Mr. Breeden.

Page last updated Wed January 15th, 2014 at 11:24