Army deploying smart cards

The Army will begin fielding smart cards at eight sites over the next two months, the service announced Monday.

The Defense Department's Common Access Card replaces the standard military identification card. It includes digital information that provides access to computer networks and systems, enables the sending of digital signatures and encrypted e-mail, and eventually will provide keyless entry to specific military buildings.

The card has been beta tested at several DOD sites, including four Army posts over the past six months. The four posts already testing the card include Fort Eustis, Va.; U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg and Mannheim, Germany; and Yongsan Army Garrison, South Korea.

The eight sites to receive the card in coming months are Fort Monmouth, N.J.; Fort Meade, Md.; Somerset-National Guard, N.J.; Tobyhanna, Pa.; 352nd Civil Affairs Command-Reserve, Md.; Fort Hamilton, N.Y.; Fort Detrick, Md.; and Fort Myer, Va.

Fielding of the card to all Army installations will continue through July 2002.

The card includes an embedded 32K integrated circuit chip, a magnetic stripe and two bar codes to store user information designed to "automate many of the ways the Army goes about garrison business," said Dr. Linda Dean, director of the Army's Electronic Commerce Center.

Dean admits the Army has had some problems with the cards.

"Not all the folks at the installations where the cards have been issued have seen it yet," Dean said. "People have gone to the post and had problems getting in because the card wasn't recognized. We are currently in the middle of a [public relations] campaign to correct that."

Other problems slowed the issuing of cards in Germany, including the time difference between Germany and the United States, the less-than-24-hour assistance support at the U.S. issuance portal and several software problems.

Yongsan has not issued any cards because of DOD's public-key infrastructure policy, which prohibits non-U.S. citizens from issuing the required public-key certificates.

"The purpose of beta testing, currently under way, is to identify issues before implementation," Dean said. "The issues found in Germany and Korea should be fully resolved this month. However, a total of 597 cards have been successfully issued at the Army's beta test sites."

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