GAO finds DOD could improve biometrics capabilities
07 August 2017 18:52 GMT

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the country's Department of Defence has made progress in establishing long-term deployable capabilities, but further actions are needed.

GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOD update its biometric enterprise strategic plan; take steps to more effectively manage the acquisition of a recent biometric capability; and consider developing a geographically dispersed back-up capability for its authoritative biometric database.

In a statement, GAO said a new report had found that the DOD has in recent years improved its requirements for long-term deployable biometric capabilities (such as fingerprint collection devices) and forensic capabilities (such as expeditionary laboratories).

It noted that 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, the GAO found that the 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.

The DOD has concurred with all of the recommendations and cited actions it plans to take to address them.