Low-Tech Fixes for High-Tech Card

The Defense Department is working to fix early rollout issues with its Common Access Card.

With less than a year left to reach the Defense Department's goal of issuing a card to nearly 4 million DOD personnel, the department is using some low-tech fixes for the high-tech smart cards.

One glitch first appeared at Army bases in Europe, where the cards were used frequently at the program's beginning. The cards have bar codes on the back that can be used for certain applications. But the ink on the bar code stripes was wearing off to the point that the code was no longer readable.

The fronts of the cards are laminated to protect them from overuse, but now the cards will be laminated on both sides even though that involves modifying the printers used to produce the cards.

The modified printers were successfully tested at Fort Belvoir, Va., according to program officials. The dual-sided laminated card will be first deployed in December in Europe. Older printers already in use will be retrofitted to laminate both sides of the cards.

Another problem arose when the authentication system would crash if too many users tried to access it at the same time. But personnel from the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Manpower Data Center are working on that problem and making progress, DOD officials said.

Low-tech problems for a high-tech card.

Critical Dependencies

DOD has been working for years to keep track of when and how the department relies on the private sector for mission-critical goods and services. One of the easiest ways to attack.DOD is through its nonmilitary suppliers.

Recently, DOD officials have tried to convey to industry leaders that electricity, fuel or telecommunications services critical to DOD also need to be critical to industry.

Tom Bozek, director of DOD's Critical Infrastructure Protection Office, presented the problem to a group of industry officials at the Industry Advisory Council's annual Executive Leadership Conference this month. The response was far from encouraging.

Several of the session participants warned Bozek and other DOD officials that writing a guarantee of service into a contract was not necessarily going to do the job. One participant even pointed out that some companies would simply declare bankruptcy, absolving themselves of any responsibility and leaving the department in the lurch.

Without extra payment in times of emergency or constant independent evaluations of a contractor's ability to provide service in all situations, DOD's dependence on industry may be more of a problem than officials expected.

Turner to Set Sail

Ron Turner, the Navy's deputy chief information officer for infrastructure, systems and technology, told his staff that he would be retiring from government after "29 years, 11 months and 21 days of service" with the Navy.

The Navy had announced that it would be offering early retirement options to members of the Senior Executive Service.

"This offer has forced me to accelerate my evaluations of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life after I hit the magic mark of 55 years old and 30 years of federal service," he said.

Turner, who is expected to leave at the end of the year, has been a central figure in leading the effort to deploy the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, DOD's attempt to create a single network across its shore-based sites.

He has also played an important role in the creation of the Navy's CIO office. Turner said he is looking forward to taking some much-deserved time off.Intercept something? Send it to [email protected]

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.


  • Workforce
    White House rainbow light shutterstock ID : 1130423963 By zhephotography

    White House rolls out DEIA strategy

    On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued agencies a roadmap to guide their efforts to develop strategic plans for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), as required under a as required under a June executive order.

  • Defense
    software (whiteMocca/

    Why DOD is so bad at buying software

    The Defense Department wants to acquire emerging technology faster and more efficiently. But will its latest attempts to streamline its processes be enough?

Stay Connected