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U.S. Navy to save millions in paper costs with biometric signatures for recruitment forms

U.S. Navy to save millions in paper costs with biometric signatures for recruitment forms

The U.S. Navy has begun using fingerprint biometrics to fill out the form of new recruits to the service, and by replacing legacy pen and ink form signing, is expecting to save millions of dollars per year by eliminating the use of some 36 million sheets of paper annually, according to an announcement from Naval Recruiting Command.

The Navy launched the new system on October 1, replacing “wet sign” hard copy signature requirements with biometric signing for the majority of forms necessary to process future sailors. The applicant’s fingerprint replaces the signature to allow electronic versions of forms to be used throughout the process of creating the new member’s official military personnel file (OMPF).

“The key thing is, if you wet sign something, it’s got to be scanned and uploaded. Before you scan it, you have to print it,” comments Gary Morse, assistant project coordinator for the Personalized Recruiting for Immediate and Delayed Enlistments (PRIDE) application managing the biometric project. “If our goal is to add 40-45,000 Sailors to our system and it takes us processing nearly 60,000 people to do that, it’s a lot of paper, a lot of ink and a lot of wear and tear on printers. So we can cut that down to where we’re no longer doing all of that printing and scanning, and we save the time that it takes.”

The Navy estimates that that 60,000 people are processed per year, with an enlistment kit of approximately 150 sheets per person, which are made into four copies each. The resulting 36 million sheets of paper each year, and the attendant savings of $2.5 million at an average cost of 7 cents per page, creates massive savings from a biometric program costing $180,000.

That is not the most powerful benefit, however, according to Navy Recruiting Command Deputy Commander and Executive Director Dr. Kevin Sullivan.

“What is more powerful is the efficiency we got overall. For the first time we have parallel processing,” he explains.

Parallel processing allows Navy Recruiting Command (NRC), Navy Personnel Command, and Recruit Training Command to access records and further process recruits, while increasing the security of personally identifiable information (PII), as recruits no longer have to transport physical copies of their documents to boot camp. Recruits now can arrive at boot camp with only three pieces of paper containing their orders, meal pass, and medical form.

More than 700,000 forms were processed by NRC in the first month of the biometric system’s use, after approval was given by the Department of Defense (DoD), and Department of the Navy (DoN) to substitute biometric signatures for traditional “wet” signatures.

The biometric project is part of the Navy’s efforts to go completely paperless, and the technology is now available for use with all DoD assets.

The Navy’s efforts also include a trial launched earlier this year to use an app with multi-factor authentication for personnel records access without using a common access card (CAC).

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