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U.S. agencies working on standard for seamless communication between biometric databases


The U.S. Defense Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security are planning to establish a new standard in 2019 to allow their biometric databases to communicate seamlessly, DoD officials told an audience at the AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association) Federal Identity Forum in Tampa, Florida, SIGNAL reports.

The Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS) version 4.1 will enable the DoD’s ABIS, DHS’s IDENT, and the FBI’s NGI (next generation identification) system to communicate natively, “in their own language,” according to DoD biometrics program chief engineer Will Graves. DHS is preparing to upgrade from its IDENT system to the new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) in order to handle scale and capabilities far beyond those it was originally designed for.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to close the transactional and interoperability gap between DOD and DHS,” he says. He also explained that the DoD communicates with the DHS database through the FBI, and that the dysfunctional system has been used for years. The DoD currently uses EBTS version 1.2.

Modernizing the DoD’s biometric system, which is at least five years old, may include moving the ABIS to the cloud, Graves says.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) updated the standards the EBTS is based on in 2013. Version 4.1 incorporates the updates, and is also compatible with NATO’s STANAG 4715 standard, enabling information sharing with foreign partners.

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