Funding In Place For New Biometrics Center

The Exponent Telegram

Thursday, January 12, 2006

By Davis White – METRO EDITOR

CLARKSBURG – President Bush’s approval Dec. 30 of the Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Appropriations bill frees $7 million for the construction of a permanent Biometrics Fusion Center at the FBI’s 1,000-acre complex in Clarksburg.

The next step for the new building – which is expected to cost at least $26.6 million and may employ up to 150 workers – is soliciting bids for construction contracts, according to Jennifer Reed, a spokeswoman for Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Bids should open some time this winter, Reed said.

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee the facility’s construction, according to Biometrics Fusion Center director Sam Cava.

"The long-awaited day has come for the Biometrics Fusion Center to begin its move across Clarksburg to the FBI complex," Byrd said in a statement. "…Centralizing West Virginia’s Department of Defense and FBI efforts will further solidify the state’s national crime-fighting role."

As part of the defense appropriations bill, Byrd earmarked the $7 million particularly for the permanent facility, according to his office.

Planning and design of the facility are already under way, Byrd said in the statement.

The new 25,000-square foot building is using about one-fifth ($7 million) of a total $35 million-plus in funds appropriated for all the Pentagon’s biometrics activities.

In July 2003, the Senate approved more than $13 million for the project. About $1.4 million was allocated for planning and design of the permanent center.

In a separate piece of legislation that year, more than $24.3 million in biometrics security funding was included in the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Appropriations bill. About half of that was allocated to the center, then located at the Harrison-Marion Regional airport.

The center has since moved to downtown Clarksburg. A second interim facility is housed at the Middletown Mall in Fairmont. There are 153 employees working at those facilities, according to Byrd’s office.

Saying the "mission has grown rapidly," Cava suggested the center’s personnel may grow with the facility.

"We expect that growth to continue," he said.

And while government officials have yet to decide the future of the downtown Clarksburg location, Cava said, the new facility at the FBI complex will not "cover all of our existing staff."

The new facility is an "immediate" solution to the BFC’s rapid growth, Cava said.

"We’re adding the facilities because we’ve grown to the point where we can’t support the mission at our current facilities," he said.

"The Biometrics Fusion Center has worked closely with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) office in Clarksburg, using the expanding technology to identify those who may pose a threat to national security.

That "synergy" with the FBI and officials at West Virginia University, which trains students for careers in biometrics, has been beneficial, Cava noted.

The BFC has developed an automated system to identify and catalog the fingerprints of detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The database is housed within the FBI’s fingerprint complex and processes, searches and matches fingerprints taken from enemy combatants and others to help identify national security threats.

The center also has developed a system to control access to military installations in Iraq.

The U.S. Army-administered center in Clarksburg tests high-end commercial identification software for military applications.