Navy ramps up smart card distribution

Each working day, the Navy Department is issuing more than 1,000 Common Access Cards for building and network access, but officials concede they will be hard-pressed to meet a Pentagon goal of distributing 800,000 cards to department employees by Sept. 30, 2002.

"Ten thousand down. Seven hundred and ninety-thousand to go," said Dan Porter, the Navy Department's chief information officer, speaking last month at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association luncheon after the department had issued its 10,000th Common Access Card — the armed service's name for its smart card. "We've got a long way to go."

Beyond using the card for building, computer network and Web server access, each command can determine how it can use the card within the department's intranet, said Dave Wennergren, the Navy Department's deputy chief information officer for e-business and security. "I envision it will have basic information about users," he said last month. "From my standpoint, you don't ever want to put too much information on the card," in case it falls into the wrong hands.

Lt. Jane Alexander, a Navy headquarters spokeswoman, said she thinks the Navy has issued more cards than the Air Force and Army.

In addition to active duty military and civilian Defense Department employees, selected contractors and reservists will receive the cards, Wennergren said. DOD officials like the security that the cards offer because they make networks less prone to remote hacking. A user must place the card into a computer's PC card reader and input a user name and password to get access.

Wennergren, who also is the chairman of the DOD's Smart Card Senior Coordinating Group, downplayed the difficulties that may arise when a Marine or sailor loses a card and needs to be issued a new one. "We have procedures," from the Navy's public-key infrastructure program for replacing lost cards, he said.

The Defense Manpower Data Center has made the card rollout easier by reducing the number of minutes it takes to create such a card, Wennergren said. He also said many installations offer a Web site from which employees can get the times when they should arrive at the base security office to have their cards created.

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