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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
Biometrics Task Force, which leads in the development and implementation of biometric technologies for combatant commands, military services, and other DOD agencies.4 The DOD forensic science capabilities are not centrally managed.5
DOD has a particular interest in DNA identification, both of its own people and of enemies. The department has a repository of five million DNA samples, primarily from military service members, intended mostly for casualty identification. DOD also pools data with intelligence and law enforcement programs to build and maintain the Joint Federal Agencies Intelligence DNA Database, a searchable database of DNA profiles from detainees and known or suspected terrorists.6
The DOD forensic science laboratories are relatively well resourced, according to the Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and DOD personnel are active in professional forensic science organizations, national certification/accreditation bodies, and national scientific working groups. Of particular note is that all of DOD’s institutional laboratories are nationally accredited,7 unlike many civilian law enforcement laboratories.
An example of federal efforts to develop forensic science methods of importance to homeland security is the relatively new National Biodefense Forensic Analysis Center, established by DHS in 2004. The center’s mission is to provide a national capability to conduct and coordinate forensic analyses of evidence from biocrime and bioterror investigations. It is supported by DHS research to fill short- and long-term capabilities gaps, but the center itself is devoted to actual casework. Before its establishment, the Nation had no dedicated biocontainment laboratories, staff, or equipment to conduct bioforensic analysis. It had no methods to enable the handling of biothreat agent powders, no methods to support traditional forensic analyses of evidence contaminated with a biothreat agent, and no place in which to receive large quantities or large pieces of evidence contaminated with a biothreat agent. There were no established methods for handling evidence and conducting analysis, no quality guidelines or peer review of methodologies, and no central coordination for bioforensic analyses. These gaps became very apparent during the Nation’s response to the anthrax attacks of 2001.8
T. Cantwell, Senior Forensic Analyst, Biometric Task Force and Leader, Forensic Integrated Product Team, Department of Defense, “Latent Print Analysis.” Presentation to the committee. December 6, 2007.
Chelko, op. cit.
J. Burans, Director, National Bioforensics Analysis Center. “The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center.” Presentation to the Committee. September 21, 2007.