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OBIM is the big winner in DHS’s FY 2020 funding budget for biometrics

OBIM is the big winner in DHS’s FY 2020 funding budget for biometrics

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) wins big under DHS’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget, with a request for $269.6 million, a 6 percent increase. This includes a requested increase of $23.2 million to support the operations for both the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System (HART). The base for this activity is $160.7 million.

Overall, $198 million would go toward IDENT/HART operations and maintenance (O&M); $70 million to identity and screening program operations; $184 million for OBIM O&M; and $15.5 million for procurement.

More than $170 million is allotted for the transfer of IDENT/HART O&M from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to DHS’s Management Directorate (MGMT), and $69.5 million for the transfer of OBIM to MGMT/OBIM from CISA.

OBIM is being transferred to DHS’s Management Directorate under the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act (CISA) of 2018 President Trump signed into law. DHS explained the transfer at the time, saying OBIM’s “placement within the DHS headquarters supports expanded collaboration and ensures OBIM’s capabilities are available across the DHS enterprise and the interagency.” The legislation directed OBIM to be “immediately realigned to the MGMT Directorate,” DHS stated in is FY 2020 budget justification documents.

The legislation requires OBIM be administered by a “director with significant management experience and experience in biometrics and identity management,” who “shall have specified duties, including leading DHS’s biometric identity services to support anti-terrorism, counterterrorism, border security, credentialing, national security, and public safety.”

Some have heralded CISA as a “landmark” piece of legislation. It “elevates the mission of the former National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) within DHS and establishes the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,” DHS earlier stated.

OBIM’s Identity and Screening Program Operations, or PPA (PPA) as it’s called for purposes of budgeting, is comprised of Program Operations, Identity, and Screening Services, and IDENT/ HART program operations and maintenance.

The Identity and Screening Program Operations office provides for salaries; the costs associated with all program operations; identity screening services, which are provided by the Biometric Support Center; identity information sharing and reporting; and Biometric Standards. The IDENT/HART funding provides for the operations and maintenance of the IDENT system that is currently in operation, as well as the future HART system that will take the place of IDENT.

“One of the biggest areas of investment is the HART system,” DHS said, which is scheduled to “replace the legacy IDENT system with improved, efficient and more cost-effective biometric identity services capabilities.”

A multi-year initiative, in FY 2020 OBIM “plans to integrate production-scaled iris and facial biometric modalities, multimodal fusion capabilities, and the completion of the full performance test environment,” DHS revealed, noting that they also plan to “jumpstart the initial establishment of the data warehouse and data mart.” The first two stages of the HART system are being developed by Northrop Grumman, which won the $95 million contract in February 2018.

The HART system is presently under development and will replace IDENT once it is fully deployed. During FY 2020, as HART becomes operational, NPPD OBIM will be transitioning from data center operations to cloud services to meet the functional requirements described below. However, IDENT data center operations must be sustained until a full transition to HART is completed.

In its budget justification document, DHS said “OBIM’s services are essential to supporting the President’s initiative to vet international travelers with the goal toward preventing terrorism” according to Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, signed January 27, 2017, and the Presidential Executive Order on Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program with Enhanced Vetting Capabilities, signed October 24, 2017.

OBIM is the lead DHS identity management service provider. Its mission is “to ensure that the homeland is safe, secure, and resilient,” serving “as a single authoritative biometric service provider with cross-cutting responsibilities to serve DHS components and other mission partners such as the Department of Justice, Department of State, and Department of Defense; state, local, and tribal law enforcement; the Intelligence Community; and foreign government partners.”

Authorized by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, OBIM operates and maintains IDENT, providing “expert identity services that match, store, share, and analyze biometric data and associated biographic data.” IDENT also “provides core biometric identity services for the dissemination of identity information in support of the immigration system, national security, and public safety. IDENT stores biometric identities and conducts recurrent matching against derogatory information. OBIM analysts also provide human biometric verification and search capabilities, updates to the IDENT biometric watch list, and respond to requests for IDENT biometric records to support the analytical, investigative, and operational needs of authorized customers and partners.

“OBIM utilizes services that match, store, share, and analyze biometric data to provide decisionmakers on the front lines of homeland security with rapid, accurate, and secure identity services as required by public law,” DHS said.

Under the Operations & Support (O&S) appropriation, OBIM provides the technology required to store collected biometric data, conduct matching and analyses, maintain biometrics/associated biographics, seamlessly share information, and ensure the security and integrity of the data. OBIM, as authorized by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, operates and maintains IDENT and provides expert identity services that match, store, share, and analyze biometric and associated biographic data. IDENT also “provides core biometric identity services for the dissemination of identity information in support of the immigration system, national security, and public safety.”

The O&S appropriation for the Departmental Management Operations, Management Directorate (MGMT), provides funding to ensure “delivery of effective and efficient business and management services to enable [DHS] to achieve its mission leading the unified national effort to secure America. It does so by providing policy, guidance, operational oversight and support, and innovative solutions for the management needs of the entire department,” which includes the costs necessary for salaries and expenses for MGMT offices.

In FY 2020 with the inclusion of OBIM, MGMT has expanded its mission to include the OBIM PPA as authorized by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Act of 2018. The OBIM O&S appropriation provides the technology required to store biometric data that has been collected, conduct matching and analyses, maintain biometrics/associated biographic information, seamlessly share information, and ensure the security and integrity of the data.

According to DHS, its funding request “will enable DHS to support both the HART system and continue to support IDENT operations, enabling the successful transition to HART and continuing to support OBIM and DHS’s vetting and counter-terrorism missions.

The FY 2020 request includes an increase of $0.6 million for additional multi-modal biometric examiners to support HART’s multimodal capabilities as part of Identity Screening and Program Operations. OBIM’s biometric identification services include biometric examiners and information analysts. The base for this activity is $69.0 million.

According to DHS, “The HART system development is essential to expanding biometric identity service capabilities beyond the current fingerprint matching to include the face, iris, voice, and other modalities and to achieve O&M efficiencies. Examiners in the Biometric Support Center (BSC) perform examinations and verifications in cases where OBIM’s automated matching capabilities are unable to determine whether two sets of biometrics match and process latent prints (partial fingerprint impressions unintentionally left on objects) submitted by partner agencies. OBIM analysts are the primary liaison between OBIM and the law enforcement and intelligence communities and foreign country partners enabling sharing of sensitive biometric and biographic data.”

This change adds biometric identity service capabilities beyond the current fingerprint matching to include face and iris modalities. BSC examiners perform examinations and verifications in cases where OBIM’s automated matching capabilities are unable to determine whether two sets of

DHS stressed that IDENT supports the department’s “strategic goals and priorities, as well as Presidential Directives, the Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-6: Integration and Use of Screening Information to Protect against Terrorism; HSPD-11: Comprehensive Terrorist-Related Screening Procedures; HSPD-12: Policy for a Common Identification Standard for Federal Employees and Contractors; and HSPD-24: Biometrics for Identification of Screening to Enhance National Security.

The IDENT/HART PPA in the O&S appropriation supports data center operations (Level 1 and 2 services), application management (Level 3 services), application software, lifecycle replacement, quality assurance/independent verification and validation (IV&V), and testing.

OBIM Identity and Screening Services consist of three components: the BSC, Identity Information Sharing and Reporting, and Biometric Standards.

BSC is described as “a 24 hours per day/7 days per week/365 days per year operation that provides manual 10-fingerprint verification, latent fingerprint services, and supplemental biometric services.” BSC also “provides expert fingerprint identification services to verify automated matches and to analyze latent fingerprint submissions.”

According to DHS’s budget documents, “Approximately 99.5 percent of all transactions are matched through a search of IDENT,” and that “BSC fingerprint examiners manually verify the remaining 0.5 percent.”

“Manual fingerprint verification is necessary to analyze poor quality fingerprints and ensure derogatory data is not erroneously associated with an individual,” DHS stated, adding that “latent print examiners compare and verify known fingerprints with previously-unidentified latent fingerprints collected by agencies at crime scenes and terrorist incidents. Biometric searches are manual comparisons of fingerprints submitted by OBIM clients, while Biometric Requests respond to client-agency requests for a set of biometric records within IDENT.”

BSC “strives to complete urgent fingerprint verifications in less than 10 minutes, non-urgent verifications within 24 hours, and enrollment and verification of terrorism-related prints in two hours or less,” DHS explained.

The Identity Information Sharing and Reporting program “provides person-centric identity management services which focus on biometrics in response to analytical, investigative, and operational requests from law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and foreign government partners.”

OBIM Identity Analysts complete the following tasks:

• Coordinate with the FBI Terrorist Screening Center to enroll Known or Suspected Terrorist information into IDENT;
• Support identity fraud detection activities; and,
• Provide notification to customers of recently-established derogatory information.

Identity analysts research, process, and coordinate biometric matches with existing OBIM domestic and international partners, as well as supporting the extension of services to additional partners and publish information bulletins.

“Biometric Standards” resources are employed to comply with Executive Order 13356. Their purpose, DHS said, “is to develop common standards for the sharing of terrorism information by agencies within the Intelligence Community.”

As stated in the DHS Biometric Strategic Framework, “over the next 10 years, DHS will move toward person-centric view capabilities, rather than an inefficient encounter-based approach.” Consequently, DHS said, “Person-centric approaches will facilitate multiple uses for a single biometric collection, and enable multiple encounters with the same individual – even those that occur with different DHS components and, potentially, international partner organizations.”

Also, “data will be integrated into a single record of a person’s activities over time. To facilitate a person-centric approach,” DHS stated, emphasizing that the department’s “enterprise must adopt and use common standards for the expanding array of biometric information that new technologies are bringing to identity-related decisions. Biometric data interoperability is an important foundation for next-generation person-centric approaches that will take advantage of new technologies and the establishment of new partners.”

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