Four agencies achieve interoperable PKI

Four agencies achieve interoperable PKI

After five years of work, the General Services Administration’s Federal Bridge Certification Authority has made the public-key infrastructures of four agencies interoperable. For the first time in history, federal agencies will accept each other’s digital certificates through the bridge.

“That is where the rubber meets the road,” said Judith Spencer, chairwoman of the Federal PKI Steering Committee. “They can communicate in a trusted fashion, verify each other’s credentials in different trusted domains.”

The bridge, part of the PKI Steering Committee and the Federal PKI Policy Authority, is a collection of hardware, software, policies and procedures that help make federal PKIs interoperable.

The Defense and Treasury departments, NASA and the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center are the first four agencies to cross-certify and accept one another’s digital certificates.

“In a way, we’ve only just begun,” Sandra Bates, commissioner of GSA’s Federal Technology Service, said at the FBCA Cross Certification Ceremony today at the White House Conference Center.

It has been difficult getting consensus within DOD to do this, said R. Michael Green, director of DOD’s Public-Key Infrastructure Program Management Office.

“We are honored to be amongst the four members in the bridge,” he said.

“It’s the end of the beginning,” Spencer said. “We will cross-certify with other entities.”

So far, the GSA’s Access Certificates for Electronic Services is set to become part of the bridge. “That will automatically bring in the Social Security Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency” because those agencies use ACES certificates, Spencer said.

The state of Illinois is finalizing its policy to become part of the bridge.

“We are excited about Illinois,” said Mayi Canales, Treasury’s acting CIO and assistant deputy secretary for information systems. “Treasury touches every citizen, business and government around.”

There are other agencies that would like to be part of the bridge but don’t yet qualify, Spencer said. The Health and Human Services, Labor and Veterans Affairs departments, Patent and Trademark Office and National Institute of Standards and Technology are among them.

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