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DoD to Implement Smart Card Program

By Linda D. Kozaryn
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 1999 – The military adage "hurry up and wait" may become as obsolete as brown boots and C rations once DoD issues Smart Cards.

DoD wants Smart Cards to replace active and reserve component military ID cards. The cards would also be issued to civilians and certain contractors with access to DoD facilities.

Smart Cards are equipped with an electronic chip, a magnetic strip and a barcode. They've proven to be efficient time savers that can be programmed for use everywhere from dining facilities to weapons armories. They can be used to grant physical access to defense facilities and to electronically access computer networks.

The card can hold information about service members' inoculations, medical and dental records, finance allotments and other data.

Smart Cards could help eliminate standing in line, filling out forms and other processing chores, according to defense officials here. Instead of moving service members from one station to the next, a simple swipe of the card would provide all the necessary information. Flight manifests and deployment processing could be completed in minutes rather than hours.

The need for information security is the driving force behind the decision to employ Smart Cards, according to Ken Scheflen, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center here. The card would serve as the individual identification key, or "PKI" for "public key infrastructure," that provides additional layers of security on DoD's computer networks.

Defense officials say a critical element of this infrastructure is that it requires strong and substantial evidence of the individual's identity. Key holders would use their PKI to access DoD computer systems and secure facilities, make secure online transactions and for other security purposes, officials said.

Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre has authorized the department to implement the program, which military officials have been working on in one form or another for more than a decade, Scheflen said. The decision follows a series of tests done by the services over the past two years, he said.

Congress designated the Navy, under the direction of the DoD's chief information officer, as the lead agency for the $145 million program, which would be implemented from fiscal 2000 to 2005. The cost of implementing the program in fiscal 2000 would be about $13 million.

Defense officials said the first year would be devoted to developing software and obtaining card stock and hardware. During the second year, hardware would be installed in the more than 800 sites worldwide where the military currently issues ID cards and at about 75 new sites. As the equipment is installed, local officials would then begin issuing Smart Cards.

"We do not plan to convert dependent or retiree ID cards because no requirement has been identified that would justify the expense," Scheflen noted. The cards will cost about $6 each, he estimated.

"The greatest thing about the Smart Card is that it allows an organization to take a hard look at its business processes to make them more efficient and to make life easier for the people in the field," said Mary Dixon, director of DoD's new Access Card Office.

The services will be able to program cards to meet their needs, Dixon said. "The plan is for the components to get a certain amount of space on that chip that they can use for any application they choose," she said. A Marine program, for example, uses Smart Cards to access weapons armories.

The services recently conducted tests in Hawaii. During a visit to Oahu, Dixon said, she watched service members use their Smart Cards to zip through a Navy dining hall head count station while she had to stop and fill out a form. At the end of each day, she noted, Navy officials quickly tallied the names and information provided electronically by the cards. Deciphering handwriting on the paper forms is much more difficult and time consuming, she added.

The Army in Hawaii uses Smart Cards during its deployment readiness processing, Dixon said. Once a month, units that deploy regularly go to a gymnasium or auditorium for what previously was a long, tedious process, she said. Service members would carry all their finance, personnel and medical records and walk around to 12 stations.

"Now they can take that Smart Card -- no papers -- and dip it into the first card reader and it checks for the 12 different things," Dixon said. Instead of going to 12 tables each month, service members now go only to stations where they have a deficiency.

"It reduces a process that used to take a day or even longer, down to a period of hours," she said. "So that means those people are now available to do training or other jobs as opposed to standing in line, hurry up and wait."

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