An open question

Version 2.0 of the Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification (GSC-IS), published in June and developed by the General Services Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been called "the Rosetta Stone" of smart-card architecture and should ensure the interoperability of cards among agencies that use it.

Some reports suggest that the Defense Department's similar Common Access Card specification will eventually be merged with it to provide a single specification that applies to all of government.

However, that may be premature. Parts of DOD are reluctant to let go of the close control they have over parts of their infrastructure, particularly some security requirements, according to government and industry sources. In particular, trying to accommodate everyone's specific requirements for handling physical access security, a new focus since last September's terrorist attacks, has been difficult.

For now, DOD's cards will comply with GSC-IS, officials said, and DOD officials will work closely with NIST on incompatibilities that surface. But when, or if, the two specifications will ever actually merge is still an open question.

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About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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