DOD to pair biometrics and smart cards

In the works long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Defense Department's efforts to incorporate biometric technology into the Common Access Card (CAC) have been validated by the homeland security push, officials say.

The initiative is regarded as one of the largest smart card deployments to date. The effort will give about 4 million DOD employees a smart card that will be used as a single identity badge.

DOD already has a card with a personal identification number, said Mary Dixon, director of DOD's Access Card Office. "We will add biometrics as one more way in which we can authenticate a person's identity."

To begin the process of injecting the cards with biometric technology, the CAC Working Group has tapped DOD's Biometrics Management Office (BMO) to explore standards and other issues surrounding the adoption of the technology.

"We have been asked to evaluate products and potential solutions," said Lt. Col. Robert Bollig, executive officer at BMO.

The plan is to store a person's biometric information file on his or her smart card. Then, when the smart card holder wishes to access a secure facility or application, the system will check the real-time scan of the biometric data against the file stored on the card before granting access.

According to Bollig, CAC and BMO officials have not ruled out any biometric technologies. To sort through options, they have formed a working group to make recommendations by year's end.

"Factors we'll consider include the invasive nature of the technology and whether there are other sources of biometrics to cross-compare data," said Dixon, who includes standards issues in that mix of factors.

But officials forging DOD's use of biometrics attested to the evolving nature of biometric standards.

"I would say that we are in the early stages of the standards process," said Charles Petrie, biometrics subject matter expert for STS International, a support contractor for BMO.

Petrie pointed to fingerprint technology as the most developed biometric technology. "At least in the fingerprint arena there has been work done by the criminal justice community

and the FBI," he said. "We may be able to leverage some of those applications."

Jones is a freelance writer based in Vienna, Va.

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