DOD biometrics lab looks to expand

Paul Howe says biometrics is in its infancy, and some products don't work very well yet'especially for large groups of users.

(GCN Photo by Steve Barett)

Along with testing new biometrics products, the Defense Department's Biometrics Fusion Center is developing a knowledge base of results and lessons learned.

Over the next three years, center director Paul Howe hopes to increase both the staff and the number of devices tested. Some of the new staff members would work just around the bend from the main testing area in the 4,000-square-foot DOD Common Access smart card laboratory in Bridgeport, W.Va.

Before locating a biometrics lab in the hills a four-hour drive from the nation's capital, DOD conducted a study of labor force economics and real estate costs. The deciding factor, however, was putting the new center near the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, W.Va.

'They have the largest biometrics database in the world,' Howe said. Plus, West Virginia University has a large forensic science program, and at the time of the center's founding two years ago, it was the only U.S. university offering biometrics courses.

Howe wants to guide DOD agencies in finding the right biometric equipment for the job. 'We can help people become better buyers of biometrics,' he said.

He's also lobbying the Pentagon's Biometrics Management Office to build a template repository'with every employee's biometric data.

The Defense Manpower Data Center is already storing government biometric data. But if a building burned down, he said, the employee records would have a backup and thousands of workers would not have to re-enroll.

Besides DOD agencies and the armed services, Howe and his staff have met with civilian agencies including the IRS and the Transportation Security Administration, though no formal partnerships have yet come from the contacts.

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