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Testimony of M. Paul Collier
Before the US Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Terrorism and Technology
October 12, 2001

Madame Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to be a part of this distinguished panel. My testimony will focus on how the federal government has used biometric technology and how technology available today can offer a significant advance in controlling access at our borders and serve as effective tool in our mission to combat terrorism.

A biometric is quantitative measurement of a unique human attribute or behavioral characteristic such as fingerprints, face, voice, iris, hand geometry, etc. Using fingerprints as an example; a finger is placed on a sensor and then scanned. The image of the fingerprint is then processed by a series of algorithms, which convert it into a binary representation, or template. This template is then compared to a reference template stored either on a computer or card based data storage medium. Like most biometrics, you cannot reverse engineer this binary representation and recreate the scanned image.

Biometric methodologies can be categorized as two types, contact and passive. A contact biometric is one that requires an individual to interact with or touch a sensor such as fingerprint or hand geometry. A passive biometric is one that does not require any action on the part of an individual such as facial recognition.

Biometrics have been used in many civil and government programs worldwide for over ten years. They have been very effective in reducing fraud, eliminating multiple identities and securing access to sensitive areas. These wide-scale deployments have served as real world proving grounds for this technology and involved many millions of people. Knowledge gained from these programs and applied to improvements and cost reductions helped produce many of the commercial products available today.

Traditionally, the primary applications for biometrics in the federal government and military have been physical and logical access control and fraud reduction programs. Though many successful pilots and proof of concept studies have been done, wide scale deployment has been slow.


A complete listing of all federal government and military applications would be quite extensive, but a few examples of successful deployments are:

US Department of Defense – Real-time Automated Identification System (RAPIDS) & Defense Enrollment and Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) (positive identification)

US Department of Defense – Operation Mongoose (military retirement anti-fraud)

US Department of Defense – Biometric Identification System (BIDS) (evacuation system deployed in South Korea)

National Security Agency – access control to sensitive areas and systems

US Department of Energy – access control in nuclear plants

Immigration and Naturalization Service – IDENT System (illegal entry control on our southwest border)

Federal Bureau of Investigation – access control at Clarksburg, WV facility

General Services Administration – logical access to computer networks

US Department of State – Border Crossing Card Project

US Secret Service – Treasury Recipient Integrity Program (TRIP) (anti-fraud)


In addition to projects such as these both the federal government and military are in the process of evaluating and deploying commercial-off-the-shelf biometric logon products to protect computers, networks and sensitive data.


It should be noted that the federal government, in partnership with industry has made a significant contribution to the evolution of biometric technology. Biometrics would not have advanced to their present level without the help of the Department of Defense, National Security Agency, Department's of Justice, Energy, Treasury and the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

Despite the fact that the United States pioneered the development of many biometric technologies, we lag behind the rest of the world in their deployment. Many other countries use biometric authentication features in national identification cards, border crossing documents, voter registration, driver's licenses, etc. Domestically, some efforts have been made to incorporate biometrics into government issued identification cards but they have fallen short of realizing the full potential of the technology. In example; we have approximately 11 million driver's licenses and five million border crossing cards already issued which include biometric data. Currently, there are no systems in place to read the biometric data and authenticate the cardholders.

For instance, the use of biometrics in the border entry application process would significantly augment security when compared to current "look-out" list systems. Databases such as fingerprints and photographs exist worldwide. Encoding biometric data in passports, visas, identification cards and other travel documents can provide positive identification of the bearer and speed the entry process.

At the same time, passive biometric technology such as facial recognition can play a significant role as a surveillance tool at our airports, ports of entry and virtually any potential "high threat condition" facility or event. This technology is easily integrated into many existing surveillance camera systems. Unlike individual "profiling", biometric technology is neutral as opposed to a subjective assessment that is prone to human error.

Biometrics alone is not a panacea, nor can any single biometric technology meet all application requirements. Successful applications require selection of the proper technology that can be easily integrated into existing solutions. Biometrics offer great promise for a significant advancement in security while protecting our privacy and maintaining a low impact on how we go about our daily activities. Biometrics can play a significant role in the protection of our Nation's critical infrastructure and have applications in virtually all aspects of our society.

As an emerging technology, significant advances have been made in establishing industry standards and addressing issues of interoperability. The efforts of the government's Biometric Consortium, co-chaired by National Security Agency and the National Institute for Standards and Technology working with the General Services Administration, the International Biometric Industry Association, The Biometric Foundation, West Virginia University – Center for Identification Technology Research along with it's other academic partners and the member companies of the BioAPI Consortium have been instrumental bringing the industry to it's present level. To date, most of this work has been accomplished with little, or no funding from the government or outside institutions.

For biometric technologies to realize their full potential will require an accelerated pace in the work of these institutions. In light of the events of September 11th, wide scale deployment of biometric solutions becomes more critical and time is of the essence.

Thank you Madame Chairman


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