Breaking out biometrics funding

With the federal government’s focus on the use of biometrics in national security efforts, a new report breaks down how agencies will use funds from the fiscal 2020 budget to invest into such technologies.

The Homeland Security Department got a sizable boost, according to a budget breakdown compiled by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement that looks at how DHS and other agencies use biometrics and identity management to improve security. For instance, the 2020 budget calls for DHS’s Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) to get $269.6 million, a 6% increase over last year, according to the report.

Specifically, OBIM received $198 million for the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology system, a cloud-based next-generation recognition program that’s replacing the Automated Biometric Identity System. In fiscal 2020, the agency will integrate iris and facial biometric modalities and multimodal fusion capabilities and lay a foundation for a data warehouse and mart.

Customs and Border Protection, DHS’ largest law enforcement agency, is working on four initiatives. The National Targeting Center, which provides real-time information to foreign and domestic partners through various initiatives such as the Immigration Advisory Program/Joint Security Program, received $203 million, while $61 million was tagged for the biometric exit solution that supports CBP’s duties confirming the identity of travelers arriving in and leaving the United States.

 In fiscal 2020, the agency will develop the overall IT infrastructure that front-end cameras can plug into when CBP deploys the collection capability, according to the report.

The budget also allotted $31.5 million to CBP’s National Vetting Center in support of the more effective use of law enforcement and classified information to identify potential threats, and $25.5 million to the Arrival and Departure Information System, which is used to store and use biometric data on foreigners who have applied for entry to, entered or left the country.

A third DHS entity, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, got $121.6 million for E-Verify, a web-based system that lets enrolled employers confirm their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.

The Justice Department received $567 million for the Criminal Justice Services Decision Unit, according to the report. It includes the Next Generation Identification program, which the FBI calls “the world’s largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric and criminal history information,” according to the report. Data includes finger- and palm prints, iris identification, facial recognition data, and photographs of identifiers such as tattoos and scars.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to use biometrics to support warfighter health by investing $18.3 million into the Warfighter Analytics using Smartphones for Health program. It’s developing analytics for continuous, real-time assessment of service members’ physical health and cognitive state using sensor data streams generated by smartphones.

Additionally, the Defense Department received $1.8 million for biometric tactical collection devices that support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, a continuation on the global war on terrorism, and $1 million for biometrics that can help warfighters identify known or suspected terrorists during military operations, the report states.

Lastly, the Air Force issued in October a presolicitation for its Human-Centered Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Leveraged Science and Technology Program to develop sensors that detect and collect biosignatures.

Federal initiatives driving these investments include the National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel. Issued by President Donald Trump in December 2018, it calls for the use of biometrics to stop terrorists from entering the country.

“Key to detecting and interdicting terrorists attempting to travel will be enhancing systems that validate identities and advancing the use of biometric technologies,” Trump wrote in the document.

Another motivator is a 2017 executive order requiring the 20 top U.S. airports use biometric and facial recognition by 2021 for international partners.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.


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