US officials, army open new DOD biometric facility
27 February 2018 14:51 GMT

US officials and senior army figures inaugurated biometric operations alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation this month at the Biometric Technology Center in Clarksburg this week.

The facility was opened by U.S. senator and representative, the U.S. Army Provost Marshal General, and Director of the Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency. Other senior leadership from the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security also attended and toured the facility.

"In a world that's becoming increasingly dangerous and more difficult to figure out where the bad guys are, this center of innovation and collaboration is where I believe we're all at our best," U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia said in her remarks.

"Establishing identity is at the center of [military] operations, not just on the periphery," said Provost Marshal General Maj. Gen. David P. Glaser, the ceremony's host.

Following remarks, elected officials and other guests were treated to a tour of the Army component of the joint DOD-DOJ facility, allowing them to see where the team of network administrators, biometric examiners, and intelligence professionals works to identify individuals who threaten national security.

"As I look around this room, whether it be DOD, Homeland Security, or FBI, you all always talk about mission, and each of you, regardless of your team, focus on that mission here," U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins of West Virginia's 3rd District said.

The interagency biometric capabilities present at the BTC have been vital to the last decade-plus of military operations, DFBA Director Glenn D. Krizay observed. "By 2004 … we were able to identify bomb makers biometrically and in conjunction with military and intelligence agencies put together a watchlist," he said. "It couldn't be done without the FBI and the dedication of the people here."

Though long a part of the Clarksburg community, DOD and DOJ biometric facilities had been separately located in older buildings until their recent moves into the newly-established BTC.

DFBA, an Army field operating agency, occupies one sixth of the 360,000-square-foot BTC, with the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division using the remainder of the space. The CJIS biometric database -- Next Generation Identification, or NGI -- contains fingerprints and other biometric data used for domestic civil and criminal purposes, while DFBA operates DOD's database focused on encounters with known and suspected terrorists during military operations.

At approximately 16 million files, the DOD biometric repository is far smaller than the FBI's, with well over 100 million entries -- but the incidence of known national security threats within the DOD dataset is far higher. It is a key asset for enabling counterterror operations abroad and protecting U.S. borders at home.

The DOD and FBI have different missions and different procedures, but still face the same basic problem of identifying threatening or dangerous individuals, whatever their background. As a result, the DOD and FBI databases have long been interoperable with one another, and their teams of skilled operators have each been located in Clarksburg for years -- the FBI first began operations there in 1995 with the DOD opening its own office five years later. But with the BTC, both are able to work in the same space, enhancing their ability to collaborate even further on operations and technical innovations.