On material alone, the U.S. National Distribution Authority shipped 74,000 fewer pounds of materials to the Air Force in 2005 because of electronic key conversions to date. This equates to a savings of $408,000.
Given these efficiency and security gains, the 10 percent usage number may seem low. But as with any new technology, acceptance always takes awhile. "We need to change the culture," Pham said.
While working to do that, his Cryptologic Systems Group team continues to push the technology evolution. Next up is a continuation of the program known as Key Management Infrastructure.
This infrastructure will allow automatic generation and attainment of keys, saving even more time, said Brent Washam, who is leading the modernization effort for Electronic Systems Center.
"This is the next generation of key distribution architecture," Washam said. "It will enable the capability to transmit key on the Global Information Grid to new net-centric crypto boxes."
When this occurs, boxes will "know" they are on the network and will be able to send information about their status and receive commands. By 2013, key architecture will include information that allows a crypto box on the net to know when a key is meant for it.
While the Cryptologic Systems Group team is leading the technology effort, there are many other players on the team. They include representatives from the Army, the Navy and the National Security Agency.
Together, they hope to increase the current 10 percent-usage figure to 40 percent by Fiscal Year '08, Pham said. Ultimately, they hope to make use of this smart process universal for U.S. defense and civil agencies that handle sensitive, encrypted data.
"When you consider how many advantages there are to using electronic keys, you realize this process change is not only smart but absolutely essential, " said Col. Jerry Corley, who served as Cryptologic Systems Group commander until his retirement March 20. "I'm very proud of our team for the great strides they've made so far and for their persistence in moving all of this forward."