DOD cautious, but optimistic

There is great potential for biometric technologies in the military, wherethe security of physical areas and computer networks must be maintainedunder diverse and often rapidly changing conditions, said Phil Loranger,director of the Defense Department's Biometrics Management Office.

But developing biometric technologies that can be relied upon to workthroughout the military is a challenge that likely won't be met for at leastfive years, he said.

"Vendors have not yet come together in a standardized way that promotesinteroperability of products, and so we are having to seek middleware tohelp us glue things together," he said. "If you are using one biometricon a [local-area network], then that's no issue. But when you have to applyseveral across a number of different networks that support thousands ofusers, then it gets to be a problem."

DOD currently has a number of "quick looks" and pilot programs in placeto test how these new tech.nologies can improve certain business processes.The pilot programs also allow more people to become familiar with the technologies,Loranger said, and the military services can see how well they integratewith current systems.

One of the most challenging integration issues, he said, is using biometricsfor single log-on systems that can interface readily with the great numberof mainframe-based applications still in use within the military.

Unlike many civilian agencies and the commercial sector, the militaryneeds to use biometrics in diverse environments. In an office, for example,it might be easy to use fingerprint- reading technology for network access.But soldiers in the field, dressed in protective suits, can't be expectedto take a glove off to use fingerprint sensors, so other technologies suchas iris scans that work through the lens of a gas mask must be developed.

"We are looking at the possibilities for biometrics across all of thesedomains, both tactical and strategic," Loranger said. "But there are certainlyno final conclusions yet. The technologies are still very immature."

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