news | 28 March 2024

Department of Defense, Defense Innovation Unit Announce Polygraph+ Effort To Modernize Decades-Old Credibility Assessment Technology

A screenshot of Altec's prototype credibility assessment tools.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 28, 2023) —  The Department of Defense (DoD) relies on credibility assessments (CAs) to mitigate risk and inform a number of important decisions, including vetting new hires, evaluating existing DoD personnel for access to classified information, assisting in determining source credibility, and supporting criminal investigations. Many of these CAs are currently dependent upon the polygraph, a tool that has been largely unchanged for decades. However, new technologies provide opportunities to improve the usability and accuracy of credibility assessment tools. Advancements in standoff physiology sensing using cameras and thermal imaging have the potential to be less intrusive and more reliable than existing methods.

More recently, advocates within DoD have been working to set the conditions for a new way to conduct credibility assessments. The National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA), a component of the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA), has been appointed the role of coordinating the research and development efforts to transform and improve, not only the accuracy of polygraph tests, but also to provide new methods and technologies, with the hope of further streamlining security screening and vetting processes. The Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security (OUSD (I&S)) began exploring ways to revolutionize how the DoD executes its CA programs leading to the  allocation of  resources for the purpose of pursuing a technological leap in research and development efforts for future CAs. 

In 2023, those DoD stakeholders collaborated with DIU to launch an open solicitation to bring in the right commercial vendors with the technology to complete their vision. From the more than 25 submitted solutions, two companies' technologies were identified for prototype: Presage and Altec, emerged as the best matched to meet the DoD’s needs. Presage produces a product that uses standard consumer grade cameras for medical assessment, and Altec is using their decades of experience developing research and clinical technologies that monitor biosignals.

A visual of Presage's prototype credibility assessment platform.

“DIU’s capability to quickly create a collaborative environment of interested creators, subject matter experts, and end-users has been unseen in any of our previous efforts to update this technology. The visibility and outreach has pushed innovation beyond our small office and into the greater [Credibility Assessment and Interview Management] community while generating buzz to create something more easily operationalized in the field,” said Peter Gust, Research Operations Specialist with DCSA’s Office of Research and Innovation.

Over the next two years, the project team will work together to prototype this new CA capability, nicknamed Polygraph+. The project also uses expertise from  Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland and Columbia University. These institutions will help ensure that the tool is validated to healthcare industry standards, that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) complies with the DoD’s ethical principles for AI and that it meets the DoD’s standards for accreditation and fielding.

As a result, the Polygraph+ project strives to deliver the transformative CA technology platform of the future, one that will serve a critical role in ensuring the security of the Nation for generations to come while ensuring that human bias is mitigated and human experience is improved.   Creating such a significant change affecting many parts of the DoD is only made successful by the coalition of innovators within the DoD organization.