Navy Recruits Are Now Using Their Fingerprints to Sign Enlistment Documents

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Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen candidates line up to be issued clothing items as part of “Ditty Bag” issue in the Golden 13 Recruit In-processing Center at Recruit Training Command (RTC), July 24, 2019. (U. S. Navy photo/Scott A. Thornbloom)
Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen candidates line up to be issued clothing items as part of “Ditty Bag” issue in the Golden 13 Recruit In-processing Center at Recruit Training Command (RTC), July 24, 2019. (U. S. Navy photo/Scott A. Thornbloom)

The Navy has successfully processed more than 700,000 new recruit forms using fingerprints, the service announced last week.

The new biometric method to sign documents went into effect Oct. 1 and has reduced the amount of paperwork new sailors need to report to boot camp to three pieces of paper: their orders, their meal pass and their medical form.

Using fingerprints to sign documents has enabled recruiters to work digitally the entire time instead of printing pages for new sailors to sign with a pen and then scanning them back into the system.

Gary Morse, assistant project coordinator for the Personalized Recruiting for Immediate and Delayed Enlistments (PRIDE) application, said in a news release that the change will allow recruiters to save time and money.

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"If our goal is to add [40,000 to 45,000] Sailors to our system," Morse said, "and it takes us processing nearly 60,000 people to do that, it's a lot of paper, a lot of ink and a lot of wear and tear on printers."

Before Oct. 1, each prospective sailor had an enlistment kit about 150 pages thick. Navy recruiters need to print four copies of those, so processing 60,000 people used 36 million pieces of paper and resulted in a total cost of about $2.5 million.

It took the Navy years to create the biometric program and cost about $180,000, the service said. It had to work with Adobe software engineers to create a custom plug-in for the forms, some of which had to be redesigned so they could be signed biometrically.

"I honestly do not believe that is the most powerful piece," said Dr. Kevin Sullivan, Navy Recruiting Command (NRC) deputy commander and executive director. "What is more powerful is the efficiency we got overall. For the first time, we have parallel processing."

Parallel processing is when all documents created while acquiring the new recruits' information are stored digitally in an encrypted database. That lets the NRC, Navy Personnel Command and Recruit Training Command access the original documents and perform further processing of new sailors.

Even though the new biometric method was piloted by the Navy, any Defense Department asset will be able to use it.

"It's one thing to capture a fingerprint. It's another to do something with it," Morse said.

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com.

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