DFBA becomes Field Operating Agency

By Matt MclaughlinJuly 24, 2013

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1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Rakkasans take pulse of local village
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Pfc. Mark Domingo, an infantryman attached to 2nd Platoon, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), takes an Afghan male's fingerprints in the village of Dande Fariqa... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers visit AUP checkpoint
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kirby D. Watkins, from Nashville, Tenn., serving with
Security Force Assistance Team 20, Texas Army National Guard, collects
biometric samples from an Afghan Uniformed Policeman (AUP) at an AUP
checkpoint during a visit by Internati... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

The Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency (DFBA) was officially designated a field operating agency by the Secretary of the Army as of 18 June 2013. Department of the Army General Order No. 2013-08 ensures that forensics and biometrics will remain an enduring capability within the Army and Department of Defense.

"Our role as the DoD lead for both forensics and biometrics will establish this agency as the focal point for all identity operations," said DFBA's Director, Don Salo.

The General Order, which is retroactive to 1 June 2013, redesignates the former Biometrics Identity Management Agency (BIMA) as the Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency, and officially transfers it from Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, to the Office of the Provost Marshal General within Headquarters, Department of the Army.

Per the General Order, the DFBA director is the Executive Manager for DoD biometrics and designated forensics disciplines, in accordance with applicable DoD directives.

The acronym "BIMA" is still used when referencing the DFBA component that operates and maintains the DoD biometrics database in Clarksburg, West Virginia -- the Biometrics Identity Management Activity.

This represents the latest step in a long evolution that began in 2000, when the Secretary of the Army was designated as Executive Agent for DoD biometrics. DFBA's forerunner organizations functioned mainly on an ad hoc basis to rapidly train and equip troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, enabling them to identify and track adversaries on the battlefield. Expeditionary forensic laboratories were also placed in theater to track down builders of improvised explosive devices, applying crimefighting tools to warfighting. DFBA's status as a field operating agency will prevent DoD's biometric and forensic capabilities from atrophying after current ground operations are scaled back.

Depending on how the terms are defined, forensics and biometrics have been in use since the nineteenth century. With the advent of photography, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency began posting "wanted" posters with mug shots in the Civil War era -- a rudimentary form of facial recognition. Fingerprints came into use as a forensic tool for law enforcement agencies in the 1890s. DFBA and its DoD forerunners, though, have applied immense computing power to old techniques -- and added new modalities, such as iris scans -- permitting examiners to quickly find matches in digital archives that would not have been possible with analog methods. The combination of handheld electronics and swift data searches has enabled American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen to deny anonymity to adversaries and maintain identity dominance.