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GAO Report on increasing deployment of DOD biometrics and forensics

DOD Biometrics and Forensics: Progress Made in Establishing Long-term Deployable Capabilities, but Further Actions Are Needed, GAO-17-580: Published: Aug 7, 2017. Publicly Released: Aug 7, 2017.
“The Department of Defense (DOD) has validated its requirements for long-term deployable biometric capabilities (such as fingerprint collection devices) and forensic capabilities (such as expeditionary laboratories). Biometric capabilities are used to identify individuals based on measurable anatomical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics such as fingerprints, iris scans, and voice recognition. Forensic capabilities support the scientific analysis of evidence—such as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and latent fingerprints—to link persons, places, things, and events. DOD utilizes deployable biometric and forensic capabilities to support a range of military operations, such as targeting, force protection, and humanitarian assistance. DOD has made significant progress in addressing its long-term requirements for deployable biometric and forensic capabilities, such as issuing new doctrine and establishing long-term funding for several capabilities, including DOD’s authoritative biometric database that is used for identifying enemy combatants and terrorists. However, DOD’s efforts to institutionalize these capabilities are limited by the following strategic planning gaps and acquisition management challenges:

  • While DOD has a current and approved forensic strategic plan, it does not have one for its biometric capabilities, because no entity has been assigned responsibility for developing such a plan, according to DOD officials.
  • The Army did not follow DOD’s acquisition protocols in developing a recent key biometric capability, and it may have missed an opportunity to leverage existing, viable, and less costly alternatives.
  • DOD’s authoritative biometric database that is used for identifying enemy combatants and terrorists does not have a geographically dispersed back-up capability to protect against threats such as natural hazards. Having such a back-up could enhance the database’s availability.

Addressing these strategic planning and acquisition management challenges could help DOD sustain the progress it has made to establish enduring deployable biometric and forensic capabilities.”

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