The Times West Virginian

May 26, 2013

FBI’s Next Generation Identification system boosts safety

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The technologies of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system are making communities safer.

On May 5, Increment 3 went live for the NGI program, which is the FBI’s new biometrics system that is an upgrade of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).

As the prime contractor for the NGI project, Lockheed Martin is responsible for delivering the system incrementally to the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the FBI in Clarksburg.

Lockheed Martin manages the program’s design, engineering, testing and deployment and works with a number of subcontractors to integrate their products into the system, said Art Ibers, director of the NGI program at Lockheed Martin.

He said Increment 3 is the largest increment to date for NGI. This step brings improvement in search accuracy for latent fingerprints, which are fingerprints that are left behind at a crime scene.

The latent fingerprint search now has almost three times the accuracy as IAFIS provided, said Kevin Reid, NGI program manager at the FBI. The search will now go across the civil files in addition to the criminals files, so external partners can have a better look at the population for solving crimes.

In addition, this rapid search can be used on the country’s borders to determine if an individual has any type of record, he said.

Many times, the evidence is palm prints instead of fingerprints, and this recent increment provides a palm print system that will be searchable nationwide, Ibers said. As that system goes online and states begin to enroll in it, the data should help resolve additional cold cases.

Reid said the National Palm Print System brings all that information into one place so law enforcement can search palm prints similar to how they search fingerprints. This advancement is very important for criminal investigations.

He explained that NGI is broken up into seven increments, starting with Increment 0, which began replacing IAFIS.

Increment 0 was aimed at increasing productivity by providing 30-inch, high resolution monitors to FBI staff members who check fingerprints. That upgrade took place before March of 2010 in order to support the U.S. Census Bureau as it processed workers, Reid said.

Ibers said the first major delivery of the NGI program was Increment 1, which brought along a new algorithm and greater capacity for 10-print processing. While IAFIS was about 92 percent accurate, NGI is now running at more than 99 percent accurate.

For a 10-print response for a high priority criminal match, two hours was the average time in the old system, but that has changed to about 10 minutes with NGI. This gives law enforcement time to make the right decisions, Ibers said.

Increment 1, which was deployed in February 2011, allows for the reduction in manual review and also improved flat fingerprint services, Reid added. Within the first five days of operation, NGI saw 910 additional fingerprint identifications, which would have never happened in the old system.

In August 2011, a capability called RISC — Repository of Individuals of Special Concern — was completed as part of Increment 2, he said. Fourteen states are currently participating in RISC, which is used by law enforcement for the mobile identification of individuals, and several more states are joining them.

Ibers said an officer or squad car that is out on the job uses a mobile device to scan two fingers from an individual. CJIS will process the prints and give a response within seconds to show if the person is of special concern.

RISC is a database of the “worst of the worst” criminals and will help keep officers safe, he said. The repository will allow law enforcement to better know what they’re dealing with while in the field, if they’re in danger, and what action they should take.

Now that Increment 3 has been deployed, the next step is Increment 4, which will go live in the summer of 2014, Reid said.

This increment will replace all the infrastructure that exists in the current IAFIS system, including database management and communication protocols, Ibers said. It basically takes IAFIS and replaces it with a brand new code that will be much more maintainable and adaptable to change, and will also add facial recognition.

Increment 5, which is being done parallel to Increment 4, is a pilot project that the FBI is doing examining the feasibility for law enforcement to use iris recognition, Reid said. Increment 6 will be a technology refreshment of all the technologies developed and employed to make sure the systems are current moving forward.

While IAFIS, which was deployed in 1999, went through multiple technology refreshments and went on to process more and more fingerprints, the problem was that it was based on old technology and used rolled fingerprints versus flat, he said. The FBI really needed an uplift to make its system more effective.

“That system has already done close to 180 million fingerprint searches since it was deployed,” Reid said.

Many law-enforcement agencies are very impressed with the results they’re seeing in terms of identification to support an investigation, he said.

 “I think that from our users’ perspective, they’re very happy with the results that they’re getting,” Reid said.

Jeremy Wiltz, the FBI’s deputy assistant director who has program responsibilities over NGI, said he’s pleased with how the NGI system is operating so far.

“For as large of a system as this thing is ... they’ve stayed in cost and schedule and hit the requirements, performance, parameters, and it’s performing extremely well,” he said. “I think in certain areas it’s probably performing even better than we thought it was.”

This project has been a great partnership with Lockheed Martin, Wiltz said.

“It’s been a joint effort between Lockheed and the government, and it’s been a success,” he said.

Ibers added that IAFIS was a good system and served the nation well, but NGI is bigger, better and faster. As the new system becomes current, it will be much easier to maintain and to add additional capabilities in the future.

“All in all, I think it’s been a great program,” he said. “We’ve seen real benefit.

“CJIS is making a big difference in the nation.”

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.