GSA office open for smart card business

With federal smart card projects gaining momentum, the General ServicesAdministration's Federal Technology Service now will offer smart card-relatedservices to agencies across government.

The new services will be available through GSA's Office of Smart CardInitiatives. This office, which primarily has focused on government-widepolicy, now will operate as an FTS business line, enabling it to sell itsservices to other agencies. Other business lines under FTS include the FTS2001 program office, which offers telecommunications services, and the FederalComputer Acquisition Center, which assists with procurements.

The move comes at a time when

smart card projects are starting to move out of the pilot stage andinto full-scale implementation, said Mickey Femino, the new director ofthe GSA Office of Smart Card Initiatives.

"We're going to be more of a solutions office," Femino said. "For manyagencies, smart card technology is new to them. We have a lot of staff expertisethat can help a lot of agencies and prevent them from making mistakes."The office still will deal with governmentwide policy issues, he said. Theoffice will help agencies develop technical requirements and write taskorders for GSA's upcoming Common Access ID procurement, which will providea vehicle for governmentwide smart card products and services, Femino said.GSA expects to release a solicitation next month for that program.

"We're trying to put a vehicle in place to make it easy for agenciesto implement smart card technology," Femino said. "This vehicle will ensureinteroperability across government." The program also will support the useof biometrics technology, which uses fingerprints or other physical characteristicsto identify individuals, and the use of digital signatures for securingelectronic transactions.

GSA already is making headway in the smart card arena. It substitutedsmart cards for government ID cards and credit cards belonging to more than400 of its employees. Employees use the smart cards to access office buildingsand computers and for other applications. GSA also is working with agencies,such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administrationand the Department of Health and Human Services to help roll out additionalsmart card projects.

"A lot of agencies want to start out small, with one building, and useone application before expanding their program," Femino said.

Smart cards are where CD-ROMs were a few years ago, said William Barr,executive director of information networking at Telcordia Technologies Inc. and a founder of the Smart Card Forum.

"We're still in the rising-tide environment, but my new message is: The surf's up," he said. Gilles Lisimaque, chief technology officer at smart card system manufacturer Gemplus SCA, said he views the government as smart card trend-setters. "They are giving direction that other businesses will follow in terms of applications," he said. "They are making decisions that the open market may not be doing yet."

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