FBI to upgrade biometric system

Originally posted May 18 at 3:15PM; updated May 24 at 4:43PM

(UPDATED) The FBI wants its new Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometric information system to furnish faster and higher-quality links to other such repositories than its current methods provide, a senior bureau official said at a briefing last week.

'Dealing with other repositories has emerged as a major problem,' said James Loudermilk II, deputy assistant director at the bureau's Information Technology Operations Division, during the briefing, which was attended by industry and government technologists.

The division has planned NGI to carry out upgrades such as improved interoperability with the IDENT system that the Homeland Security Department operates to carry out many of its immigration data processing functions. The bureau's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) already exchanges specified groups of fingerprints gathered from individuals who qualify as 'the worst of the worst' among immigration law violators, known or suspected terrorists and similar wrongdoers.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has mandated that IDENT end its practice of gathering only two fingerprints and shift to the bureau's approach of gathering 10 fingerprints. That change will assist the job of achieving greater interoperability between the department's system and IAFIS.

The bureau's biometric technologists have consulted with their counterparts abroad to help develop regional biometric information repositories, Loudermilk said. For example, some Middle Eastern countries seek to build a regional biometric database of criminals and other social enemies, and the bureau has advised them, he said.

Loudermilk presented a history of the bureau's biometric approaches to fingerprint acquisition, storage and processing ranging to the early 1900s and an explanation of how the agency developed its current biometric systems. Loudermilk's involvement as the FBI executive responsible for design, development, installation and adoption of the IAFIS gave weight to his review of these topics.

The bureau plans to release its proposal request for the NGI project within a few weeks, Loudermilk said.

Justice Department CIO Vance Hitch believes NGI will be launched late this year. He said today that the system will broaden the scope and speed of what IAFIS can handle.

'When IAFIS was first envisioned and built, no one had a concept of immediate response. ' It was a long process [for capturing biometrics], taking days or weeks or months,' he said at the Mountaintop Marketing's Peak Performance Breakfast. 'NGI is really the future.'

Loudermilk mentioned several features the FBI plans to add to the NGI to upgrade its operations from IAFIS:
  • Increased capacity, because IAFIS now is conducting fingerprint checks at a rate far above its original design rating.
  • An upgraded fingerprint identification engine, based on a study that the winning vendor will be required to conduct of commercial products in the field and other approaches to the task.
  • Reduced response time for additional categories of fingerprint checks.
  • Capabilities to extend IAFIS to future biometrics such as DNA, which is now impossible for legal and cost reasons, as well as exotic methods of identifying people, such as their gait.

Wade-Hahn Chan contributed to this article.

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