GSA, DOD sign on to Liberty Alliance

The Department of Defense and the General Services Administration have joined Liberty Alliance, a network identity standards organization.

The consortium - whose members include EDS, Lockheed Martin Corp., Sun Microsystems, MasterCard Inc. and VeriSign - hopes the government’s involvement will help set the standard for large-scale digital authentication and identity management.

“Identity management is becoming ... more relevant as an increasing number of transactions and relationships move online,” said Michael Barrett, president of the Liberty Alliance Management Board.

While identity solutions exist in the marketplace, the alliance is creating a common language, or specifications, that will allow the solutions to work in a similar way, paving the way for government bodies to simplify electronic services to a large numbers of citizens, workers and businesses, said Simon Nicholson, head of the business and marketing expert group for the alliance.

The GSA is looking at alliance specifications as a way to implement authentication services across the Internet as part of its eAuthentication initiative, one of the 25 e-government projects. This initiative will develop a way to verify the identities of citizens and businesses doing business with the government online.

The Defense Department’s Defense Manpower Data Center is looking at the specifications for help in maintaining its automated power, personnel, training and financial databases.

The first work the alliance has taken on is a single sign-on capability. Using a common specifications for single sign-on and identity management, an individual who signs on to a trusted network would not have to sign on a second time if he uses other services elsewhere, Nicholson said.

For example, a sailor logs onto the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet and if the intranet uses the Liberty specifications, the sailor will be allowed to check medical records being held by another Liberty-compliant branch of the service without logging in again.

The signing of the two agencies also represents a major victory for the Liberty Alliance, started in July, 2002, as Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., is rolling out its own identity management service, called Passport.

“We recognized that no one supplier could set the standards and that identity, security and privacy are all key to seeking what we want to offer on the Web. So participation by the GSA and DoD is further evidence that we’re agreeing that we all need to work with each other,” Nicholson said.

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