Defence Department continues improving ABIS biometric database

March 12, 2015 - 

The Defense Department continues to improve the Automated Biometric Identification System as part of its global intelligence-gathering efforts, according to a report by FCW.

Headed by the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, the ABIS serves as a central repository for biometrics data from a range of combatant commands and military services.

ABIS is able to handle as many as 30,000 submissions a day and can store up to 18 million records, according to PEO EIS.

Soldiers in Afghanistan are collecting biometrics using a device called Biometrics Automated Toolset, and hardware called Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit II.

The hardware — which automatically captures and formats fingerprints, along with iris and facial images — has a keyboard for soldiers to type in biographical data regarding the subject.

The handheld device can be connected to a central workstation. Once connected, soldiers are able to upload biometrics data to any of the many servers across Afghanistan, which is then sent to the ABIS database back in West Virginia for correlation.

The FBI, the State Department and Homeland Security, along with a few other agencies, all use ABIS to verify biometrics matches for criminal cases and individuals on terrorist watchlists.

ABIS’ accuracy rate is directly dependent on the quality of the technology on which it is built. The system has significantly improved from its initial version (ABIS 1.0 in January 2009), right up to its most recent version (ABIS 1.2 in October 2014).

ABIS 1.2 has demonstrated increased throughput and capacity, as well as the ability to refresh the system’s hardware, said Col. Sandy Vann-Olejasz, DOD biometrics program manager at PEO EIS.

With better algorithms, ABIS 1.2 has been able to improve its accuracy rate, which ultimately gives the Army’s experts more time to analyze the sample matches and incorporate them into intelligence reports.

The full deployment of the system will occur no later than the first quarter of fiscal 2016, said Vann-Olejasz.
Despite its many improvements over the years, the operational test and evaluation environment fiscal 2014 review of ABIS emphasized that the database has significant cybersecurity flaws while both 1.0 and 1.2 versions failed to be consistent in matching individuals to a terrorist watchlist.

The technology behind ABIS will eventually have to be updated, said Vann-Olejasz, adding that the current version “will only take us so far due to software obsolescence and potentially hardware things.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing review of the acquisition strategy for ABIS will decide whether a new approach is required or “whether or not we will continue to, if you will, bolt on to the DOD ABIS architecture and framework,” she said.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.