Pentagon Has Near And Long-Term Biometrics Strategy

BALTIMORE--Recognizing that the military's most pressing need for biometrics technology is the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Defense Department (DoD) has been focusing attention and resources on supporting U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in these theaters to sort out friend or foe, a Pentagon official said recently.

But the Pentagon also recognizes the need for a long-term approach to the use of biometrics in meeting the disparate identity management needs of DoD and has begun a Capabilities Based Assessment (CBA) toward this end, Thomas Dee, director of defense biometrics within the Pentagon's Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) office, said during a briefing last week at the Biometrics Consortium Conference here.

The two components of the Pentagon's strategy for biometrics are proceeding parallel to each other, Dee said.

The Pentagon's needs for identity management solutions, of which biometrics technology forms the core, include business functions such as physical and logical access, and privilege management. On the combat side, the military needs to be able to identify persons of interest by collecting various biometrics and searching those biometrics against databases for possible connections to bomb making or other insurgent activities.

At the outset of the insurgency in Iraq, CENTCOM had few means to be able to positively and uniquely identify insurgents. However, in the past few years, the Pentagon has purchased and deployed various types of biometrics collection equipment, search capabilities, and related communications to help it begin to close the anonymity that favors the insurgents.

However, Dee said, "The stuff we bought is not necessarily interoperable with all the stuff that everybody else has bought and is not optimized to do everything that we want to do. But we bought it, and as I've indicated it's added tremendous value to our efforts out there to sort out the good guys from the bad guys."

The Pentagon has been working to improve what already is in the war theaters and to make the various systems work better together, Dee said.

Turning to DoD's long-term needs, Dee said that "CENTCOM is not the end all to the Department of Defense's requirements." In classic DoD style, the Pentagon plans to go through the operational user community to learn what the various combatant commanders need, he said.

That's where the ongoing CBA comes in.

Dee said that the Joint Forces Command has begun work on the assessment, which will "help define the requirements that we want to be able to work with."

He said that some of the requirements will be met with off-the-shelf solution, but that there will probably be a need for additional development. That's where a science and technology support plan will come in as well as a roadmap to help guide the Pentagon in getting to the point where it can buy what it needs, he said.

Dee has been on the job less than a year helping to lead the Pentagon's biometric coordination efforts. Last October, the DDR&E was established as the overseer for defense biometrics and the Army was selected as the executive assistant (Defense Daily, Oct. 9, 2006).