Illinois becomes first in line to join the Federal Bridge

Illinois is preparing to become the first state to join the Federal Bridge Certification Authority and make its digital certificates interoperable with those of four federal agencies.

The General Services Administration will work with the state this month to test the interoperability of Illinois’ certificates with those of the Treasury and Defense departments, the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center and NASA, which are part of the bridge authority.

Illinois uses digital certificates to conduct business online between state agencies, lawmakers and businesses.

When we started, this technology was "bleeding edge,” said Georgia Marsh, associate director for the Illinois Department of Revenue, who also serves on the state’s public-key infrastructure policy authority.

Judith Spencer, chairman of the federal PKI Steering Committee at GSA, said she and Illinois officials are trying to develop policy mapping for verification of certificates and conducting interoperability tests.

“This is where we put the certification authorities through their paces,” she said. “We have to ensure that we can issue cross certificates and that they can be recognized.”

“Nothing regarding the deployment has been easy, but the return on opportunity for citizens to do joint federal and state transactions, and our new ability to securely and confidentially communicate with our federal counterparts, makes it all worthwhile,” Marsh said.

Illinois submitted its application to the federal bridge in January.
She touted the online business tax registration, which in two weeks will include a federal component.

“Businesses will receive their state tax numbers and provisional [federal employer identification number] in one online session,” she said.

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