Access Denied

The Defense Department marked a milestone last month by issuing the 1 millionth Common Access Card — a multifunction "smart" identification card — but some service members are finding that the cards do not provide access. The problems have caused the cardholders to call the CAC the "common unaccess card."

One sailor reported that during a recent trip to the Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., he presented his CAC for entry to the base. "The reply was, 'That gets you nothing here,'" he said. He had to present a hard copy of his travel orders to gain access.

The CAC is supposed to be the standard ID for members of the uniformed services, to use as a personal ID and gain access to buildings and computer networks.

That, however, is still news to some parts of DOD. Another sailor even found it was news to the Pentagon.

After he went through the hassle of getting his CAC, he was surprised when he was told that the card was "useless" at the Pentagon. "Interestingly enough, it wouldn't even get me into my own office in Norfolk," he said. And the cards do not yet provide network access.

"It leaves us all wondering why we ever bothered to get them," he said. "Someday, they may do something for us, but right now, it's another useless piece of plastic. I feel a bit like a Christmas tree with various ornaments hanging off it when I have to add to my collection of required ID badges."

DOD officials said they are looking into the situation, but pointed out that the program is still in its early stages.

NMCI: Quality Is First

The Navy's initiative to create an enterprisewide network across its shore-based sites is still reeling somewhat from the perception that the Navy and EDS, the lead vendor on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, are rolling out seats so quickly that other considerations, such as security, have been put on the back burner.

That perception was fueled by an April 25 EDS memo in which the company's chief delivery executive said EDS was going to begin "ruthlessly rolling out seats."

NMCI Director Rear Adm. Charles Munns, during an impromptu meeting with reporters last month, stressed that NMCI is rolling out seats, but doing so with an emphasis on quality.

No doubt quality will remain high on the agenda: The Navy and EDS begin installing workstations at the Pentagon, including the Navy secretary's office, starting this month.

UAVs Helpful, But More Help Needed

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are aiding the Defense Department's war effort in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and will play a role in the Army's evolving Future Combat System. But cheaper UAVs with increased capabilities will be needed in the future to keep the military on the cutting edge, according to a pair of Army officials.

Col. William Johnson, Objective Force project manager, said lower-cost UAVs are needed on the battlefield to provide situational awareness at the tactical level.

Rather than sticking with the "current paradigm" of expensive UAVs sending information back to commanders, it would be beneficial to have less costly solutions sending data back to the lower echelons of the services, said Johnson, adding that the Army had not yet decided on any materiel solutions for FCS.

Lt. Gen. Richard Cody, deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, echoed Johnson's call for improved situational awareness at the tactical level through embedded command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Cody said that although UAVs were "indispensable" during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, the technology lacks the "situational curiosity" of a human scout or manned platform.

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About the Authors

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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