Smart card program gets rolling

A year from today, all Defense Department employees—about 4 million active-duty, reserve and civilian workers—are supposed have smart cards. As of today, most still do not. So the services have decided it's time to get the program moving—literally.

The Air Force has ordered three trailers that will serve as rolling high-tech pass offices and move from base to base issuing smart cards called Common Access Cards.

The trailers, which will cost about $155,000 apiece, will each house six workstations, computers, a generator and communications equipment that can tap into a central DOD personnel database.

The trailers will be towed from base to base by a pickup truck. Once they are set up, it is expected to take about 15 minutes per employee to verify identification, retrieve information from the personnel database, process the information and issue a smart card.

A smart card road trip could begin as early as November, when the trailers are to be delivered to the Air Force, said Hank Giffin of Anteon Corp., the Virginia-based technology company that is equipping the trailers for the Air Force.

But even with an 11-month effort, it will be difficult to meet the Oct. 1, 2002, deadline, Giffin said. "There is such a volume [of smart cards] to do across the military."

The Navy already uses four similar trailers to travel to piers and hangars to issue smart cards to sailors, he said. The military's smart cards can hold 32K of information and will be used as identification cards and to grant employees access to buildings, computers and systems where the military wants to limit access for security purposes.

"Within a year or two, every computer will have a smart card reader on it," and only those with proper clearances programmed into their smart cards will be able to use the computers, Giffin said.

"You will see more and more cards with chips" in the military and in civilian settings, he predicted. Eventually, smart cards are likely to be used in combination with biometric identification technology, such as thumbprint scans or retina scans, he said.

Eventually, military officials say smart cards could replace military driver's licenses, weapons cards, library cards, meal cards and other forms of identification.

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