Pentagon using biometrics for smarter warfare, facilities, business processes

Biometrics has taken the U.S. military by storm, both as a tool to fight war on the battlefield and as a way to make its business practices more efficient.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Biometrics has taken the U.S. Department of Defense by storm, both as a tool to fight war on the battlefield and as a way to make its business practices more efficient.

According to Myra Gray, director of the Army's Biometrics Identity Management Agency, biometrics has become "an integral part" of a soldier's mission, allowing troops to identify potential threats and confirm the link between name and face.

"You can identify an individual and associate him with certain actions," Gray said in an American Forces Press Service report. "You can figure out who someone associated with and what they have been involved in. You can link events such as an [improvised explosive device] at one place and a protest at another. You build a picture of what has gone on."

Biometrics, of course, is the science of identifying a person by using intrinsic (and hopefully unique) physical and behavioral characteristics. The military uses iris, facial, palm and voice characteristics in the field.

But now the Pentagon is bringing biometrics back for use at home. Just like in the combat zone -- where biometrics are used to grant people access to secure facilities -- the Defense department is using them in its own facilities as a type of universal access: every member of the military, their families and civilian employees have a common access identification card that is embedded with their fingerprints.

For example:

  • At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the Air Force uses a device that scans hand prints to clear veterans who are receiving treatment at the Veterans Affairs clinic for access to the base hospital.
  • At Fort Belvoir, Va., the Army uses iris scanning technology to provide keyless entry to sensitive areas.
  • The Navy uses biometrics equipment to confirm identifies as they board foreign vessels.

But biometric technology is becoming better, and the military is already experimenting with new uses, such as the ability to scan people on the fly without requiring them to touch anything or stop moving.

Imagine such tech on the battlefield: safer border crossings and other points of entry.

Imagine such tech in a civilian airport: no more lengthy security lines.

Moreover, the Pentagon is using biometrics to speed up business processes. The technology is being used to streamline record-keeping, improve information-sharing between departments and agencies and combat fraud throughout the U.S. government.

Just think: medical records, employee records, social security records, and so forth. It's a move to centralize security within the U.S. government and bolster it at the same time.

Photo: U.S. soldiers use biometrics on volunteers to become security guards in Taji, Iraq. (Steve Czyz/U.S. Air Force)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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