Biometrics: The Army as executive agent for the Department of Defense

Monday March 24, 2008

What is it?

Biometrics is the process of using automated methods of recognizing an individual by measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) and behavioral characteristics. The Department of Defense (DOD) Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) is the authoritative biometric repository for detainee and enemy combatant data. Future DOD ABIS capabilities will include facial, palm print, and iris recognition, as well as a DOD-wide architecture to facilitate the use of biometric technology across multiple domains. Other biometric systems include:

Biometrics Automated Toolset (BAT): This self- contained searching and matching system has three components--server, laptop and handheld device--that uses fingerprints, iris images, and facial photos. The system then enrolls, identifies and tracks persons of interest, and builds digital dossiers for intelligence purposes.

Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE) : This self-contained, lightweight, handheld biometric collection and matching system collects fingerprints, iris images, facial photos, and contextual biographical information on persons of interest. It is capable of downloading biometric watch lists to facilitate the apprehension of known threat individuals encountered on the battlefield.

Biometric Identification System for Access (BISA) : This system provides a secure credential enabled by biometric characteristic or personal identification number for persons requiring access to U.S. facilities and installations. The Army is using BISA in Iraq.

Detainee Reporting System (DRS) : The National Detainee Reporting Center's DRS is the primary accountability tool for detainees' inclusion in the official detainee records administered by the DOD for the U.S. government.

What has the Army done?

The Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7 established the Biometrics Task Force (BTF) to execute the Army's responsibility as DOD's biometrics executive agent. The Biometrics Fusion Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., is an operational element of the BTF. The BTF is responsible for the following:

* Synchronizing and integrating biometric technologies into the greater identity management framework and strategy for the DOD; additionally, performing requirements management, test and evaluation, product assessment, and standards development activities.
* Partnering with all service (Air Force, Navy, Marines) and Army training and doctrine entities to leverage existing documentation and develop new analysis documentation to help establish formal programs of record.
* Operating and maintaining the authoritative DOD biometric repository (i.e., ABIS) in conjunction with the resources and management oversight provided by Project Manager-Biometrics. This database provides storage, search and match functions, and submits results to the user so that operational decisions can be made regarding the individual in question.

The BTF maintains a Web site for the use of its DOD and intergovernmental partners: Biometrics Task Force Portal

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. In addition, the Army is developing a recommended organizational construct that will facilitate the organization's evolution to the Biometrics Defense Agency (BDA).

The BTF is also planning future expansion of the two biometric forward cells in Iraq and Afghanistan. These cells have succeeded in raising awareness of the usefulness of biometrics throughout the DOD. The cells will continue to expand in scope and staffing in the months and years ahead.

Why is this important to the Army?

The ability to establish an individual's identity with certitude and to link the individual to past aliases or activities gives our Soldiers a decisive edge both in fighting the global war on terrorism and in aiding other U.S. government organizations. By programming for long term investment and consistently enhancing biometric functionality, the Army is fulfilling its role as DOD's executive agent for biometrics.


* 2008 Strategic Communication Guide - Read the 2008 Army Strategic Communication Guide for key messages and updates

* Strategic Communication Coordination Group (SCCG) Workspace

* Army Public Affairs Portal

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  • Energy victory: Winning the war on terror by breaking free of oil (BFD)


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"Having liberated this country, the United States and our coalition partners have no intention of allowing extremists to shoot their way back into power. We're going to get this job done right, so that another generation of Americans doesn't have to come back and do it all over again."

- Vice President Richard B. Cheney, March 20, visiting Soldiers in Afghanistan

Vice President Cheney thanks U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan


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