Army considers outreach on biometrics

WASHINGTON: The US Army is seeking preliminary feedback from firms that could provide PR support over a five-year contract period for the Pentagon?s rapidly expanding biometrics program. The contract could be worth between $5 million and $10 million during that period.

WASHINGTON: The US Army is seeking preliminary feedback from firms that could provide PR support over a five-year contract period for the Pentagon?s rapidly expanding biometrics program. The contract could be worth between $5 million and $10 million during that period.

The military is gauging agency interest in the work prior to the planned release of an RFP in January, which will contain more detailed information about the solicitation. The winning firm would work directly with the Defense Department's Biometrics Management Office (BMO) in Alexandria, VA, and the Biometrics Fusion Center (BFC) in Clarksburg, WV.

Biometrics is a technology that measures physiological and behavioral characteristics ? iris patterns, DNA, and fingerprints ? that can be used to verify the identity of an individual. The worldwide biometric market is expected to grow from $2 billion in 2006 to $5 billion by 2010. Along with executing an outreach strategy, the winning firm would prepare press kits, support educational demonstrations at tech industry trade fairs, maintain the BMO website, and assist with technology briefings of industry and Pentagon officials.

DoD currently is using biometrics in its war in Iraq to collect data and categorize it in a biometrics database maintained by the BFC. The military, for example, plans to use the technology to collect biometrics data from Iraqis and other non-US citizens who want to work on US bases in Iraq to develop ID cards that cannot be counterfeited as easily current identification methods. The military and CIA also use biometrics in Afghanistan, taking digital scans of the fingerprints, irises, and voices of Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners, including those transported to the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Critics worry about the possible clandestine capture of biometric data.

Facial recognition systems can track individuals secretly without the individual's knowledge or permission. Moreover, there is concern that military and police agencies will use the collection of iris scans, thumbprints, and other personal authentication data in a central repository as a way to track US citizens. As part of the five-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract, the winning PR firm also would be required to produce videos for the military's biometrics office and conduct technical research into the technology. Responses to the initial query are due by January 6.

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