Feds combine smart card buys

GSA Smart Card Web site

Five federal agencies have agreed to pool their smart card needs into a large contract buy of up to 40 million cards during the next three years.

The agencies — the Defense Department, Homeland Security Department, Interior Department, NASA, and Department of Veterans Affairs — will initiate the procurement, but other federal agencies could buy cards under the contract, said Bob Donelson, a senior property management specialist in Interior's Bureau of Land Management. He spoke today in Washington, D.C., at a Federal Public Key Infrastructure Deployment Workshop.

By combining their requirements, the five agencies will reduce their card costs, which can be significant — $5 to $24 per card — Donelson said. But card expenses represent only about 6 percent of the total spending needed to set up a smart card infrastructure for an agency the size of Interior, he said.

An infrastructure of smart card readers and procedures for controlling building and network access is the most costly portion. "Without the infrastructure, the card doesn't have a lot of value, Donelson said.

Keyboards with smart card readers are just one of a number of hardware items that might also be included in smart card contract, he said.

"We're just scratching the surface of the uses of this technology," Donelson concluded. "We anticipate one day you'll use a government smart card to ride the Metro."

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