DOD tries out biometric smart cards overseas

The Defense Department's broadest smart card rollout for biometric authentication is happening in South Korea, Japan and Europe'not the United States, Kenneth C. Scheflen told the Biometric Symposium 2004 in Washington.

Scheflen, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center, said yesterday the pieces 'are not all there yet for an enterprise biometric solution.' Vendors' products are still closed to interoperability, he said, and the algorithms used for fingerprint comparison remain proprietary.

Although DOD continues to push vendors toward an interoperable smart-card business model, it has managed 'to badge individuals without DOD credentials in the largest biometric access program in the department,' Scheflen said.

The Defense Biometric Identification System, or DBIDS, places a digital fingerprint and photo on a smart card in a scalable configuration that local authorities can adapt to their requirements. The card goes to individuals who do not qualify for DOD's Common Access Card, although CAC holders in those locations must also register in DBIDS.

Laborers, for example, have scarred fingertips that might be unsuitable for fingerprint readers, so hand-geometry readers might be needed instead to admit them to work sites. DOD's Biometrics Fusion Center at Bridgeport, W.Va., is testing many types of finger, face, hand, iris and other scanners for such local needs.

'The DBIDS fingerprint database refreshes daily' from a central database server to notebook computers at local checkpoints, Scheflen said. So far, there are about 650,000 military users and contractors registered in DBIDS at European sites, Japan, Kuwait and the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, Calif.

Under consideration by the center are similar U.S. visitor badging and cross-credentialing programs for contractors and military dependents, Scheflen said.

The average time to register for DOD smart cards remains about 15 minutes. 'Problems are usually on the public-key infrastructure side' because of multiple handshakes needed between smart-card processors, DOD systems and escrowed keys, he said.

'Sometimes it's only six or seven minutes with a good communications link and no major burps,' Scheflen said. Remote and satellite links tend to take longer.


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