U.S. Army Pfc. David Diaz, assigned to Team Hatchet collects a DNA sample for biometrics on an Afghan man at a security checkpoint in Ayub Khel, Khost province, Afghanistan, last September. (Sgt. Kimberly Trumbull / Army)
TAMPA, Fla. — The Pentagon is refining its use of biometrics to better identify, screen and search for individuals.
By year’s end, Defense Department officials expect to have an updated directive that defines the roles and responsibilities of DoD entities involved in biometrics, said John Boyd, director of Defense Biometrics and Forensics.
Speaking Tuesday at the Biometric Consortium Conference and Technology Expo here, Boyd said budget constraints and a change in priorities as operations in Afghanistan wind down are among the factors driving a more refined focus in biometrics. Biometrics refers to human recognition technologies used to identify people by fingerprints, iris scans or other means.
The focus, however, should be less on the technology and more on having enough data to make decisions about an individual and ensure the right people have that data. Boyd hinted that biometrics could play a role in preventing future tragedies like this week’s fatal shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington.
“It’s identity, not biometrics that’s critical to national security,” Boyd said. “Identity, not the capabilities used to establish it, is the critical component to enable decision making.”
“Identity isn’t just enough to identify John Boyd as one out of 7 billion, but to learn enough attributes about me to make a decision,” he said. “Am I trustworthy to come on a base? Is there derogatory information about me sufficient that I should not go onto a specific network, classified or otherwise?”
There may be derogatory information about an individual that a base commander has every right to see, but data aren’t readily available, he said. The commander may not get that information for days, weeks or months, and that hurts, Boyd said.
For DoD, the real value of biometrics is delivered through intelligence analysis, he said.
Today’s challenge is satisfying the need for accuracy and timely information,” said Dalton Jones with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Decision makers must be informed in milliseconds, not days or weeks. And this must be done in a way that respects privacy, policy and legal requirements.
“Now, it’s about finding the right person in that millisecond period of time,” Jones said.