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FBI program manager discusses success of $1.1B NGI biometrics program


In a recent interview with Federal News Radio, Jim Preaskorn, the program manager for the FBI’s Next Generation Identification System, discussed how the agency effectively delivered on the $1.1 billion biometrics program, according to a report by Federal News Radio.

In 1999, the FBI implemented the NGI 10-year contract to replace its previous 15-year-old Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) with an advanced biometrics system, adding several new capabilities for federal and local law enforcement officials to more effectively identify suspects.

“It was a quite a feat. It was actually a 10-year program with six years of contract work. Increments were decided were the best way to deliver functionality each year. We can make sure we have something out there,” Jim Preaskorn, the program manager for the FBI’s next generation identification system, told Federal News Radio.

“As for the cost and schedule, it was a team effort. It was a $1.1 billion program so we had a whole program office and that philosophy of earned value, schedule containment, and quality as well as scope. Think of it as a three-legged stool, quality, cost and schedule, saw one off, you have to do something to the others.”

The FBI’s NGI effectively boosted the accuracy of fingerprint algorithms from 92 percent to 99.6 percent, while enabling officers to access the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) via their mobile devices, said Preaskorn.

The previous IAFIS system could only process rolled fingerprints, and consistently ran into issues when trying to process flat or latent fingerprints.

Under the recent increment four, the FBI received facial recognition capabilities and a Rap Back services which alert law enforcement officers of criminal, and, in some cases, civil activity of individuals after the initial processing and retention of criminal or civil transactions.

“We also are scalable now,” said Preaskorn. “We built this on a service-oriented architecture so as a modality changes we can unplug in and plug in a new vendor, or expand if we want to add iris in the future. We can just plug it into the service-bus and it allows us to expand and grow.”

Preaskorn said that the most significant difference between the two systems is that the IAFIS system could only handle 62,000 transactions a day while the NGI is able to process as many as 700,000 transactions a day.

The scalable system has been developed incrementally over the last few years, allowing the FBI agents and other stakeholder to test and provide feedback on the system to more effectively meet the users’ needs.

Preaskorn said the FBI will continue to develop NGI over the next few years. The agency is currently piloting iris technology to see if it is feasible, as well as contemplating on using DNA, voice and other modalities as they continue to improve.

In addition to being used by the FBI, the NGI is used regularly by Homeland Security Department as the agency sends prints to NGI from all border crossings and port of entry checkpoints.

Additionally, the Defense Department and the Office of Personnel Management regularly depend on the FBI to process fingerprints against NGI.

Previously reported, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS)’s Next Generation Identification System played a large role in helping the Department of Defense identify a notorious Islamic State terrorist.

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