Biometrics Lab Opens in Morgantown, W.Va.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia continues to establish itself as a leader in the science of biometrics, praised officials at the formal opening of the National Biometric Security Project testing and certification lab.

"West Virginia is a global leader in biometric sciences, and we are not here just to compete, we are here to win," said U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who participated in Friday's event.

"We have looked into the future and seen the power and potential of biometric science. This center is boldly reaching out to harness that power. The work done here will improve the security of our nation, protect our fundamental civil liberties and stimulate commerce in West Virginia."

Biometrics is, by many, considered the security measure of the future.

Biometrics uses a person's unique physical characteristics -- such as fingerprints, the iris and retina of the eye and voice -- as a means of identification.

The center is composed of three labs, one a high security lab for homeland security-related projects, one for U.S. government testing and the other for private firms.

So far, the facility is running on state and federal funding, including a $2.3 million state economic development grant.

The new intelligence bill before Congress contains $20 million for biometrics projects, said Rockefeller, and he expects to direct part of that money to the Morgantown operation.

Private funding is also expected to increase as the testing center swings into full operation.

"We are a sole source to handle all non-defense department agencies and the private sector," said Michael Yura, NBSP senior vice president and head of the center.

The center has a 12-member permanent staff and will be adding four more in the next few weeks. With contract negotiations under way, that will easily expand to 20, Yura said.

WVU is the facility's main subcontractor.