Job goal: Make paper smarter, more secure
GPO's Jellen pushes for e-passports, RFID and digital watermarks
- By Aliya Sternstein
- Jan 23, 2005
Larry Jellen doesn't exist, at least not on any official record. And that is ironic considering that he heads the Government Printing Office's security and intelligent documents operation.Although he is known as Larry, he has given up trying to use that name and officially goes by Clarence "Larry" Jellen instead, which makes life easier for those trying to confirm his identity.
As the GPO official in charge of developing e-passports, Jellen cares about identifying people accurately. He is responsible for marketing e-passports; radio frequency identification (RFID) tags; watermarks; special threads, which are embedded in paper to enhance the security of a document; and other intelligent document technologies. It's a growth area for the federal government, he said.
Jellen heads a new department at GPO, so he must start from scratch on securing paper using technology. "The biggest challenge is just getting the word out to the agencies that the GPO has expertise in this area," he said. "A majority of people think we print the money."
To promote GPO's secure document services, Jellen said he plans to hold a series of meetings with Cabinet members and Public Printer Bruce James. He will also conduct a conference with the Homeland Security Department, the FBI and the Secret Service this spring.
Jellen plans to brief officials from these agencies on security inks, birth certificate security and other features of intelligent documents. His pitch is that GPO can provide everything from consulting expertise to the actual production of documents containing simple watermarks or passports with embedded chips.
Many of Jellen's ideas on securing documents electronically come from overseas. European countries have to bridge various cultures and languages to verify the identities of people traveling across borders, which is even trickier than securing identities across states. To handle the situation, Europe speaks the universal language of electronics.
Jellen said he took his smart card ideas from the Europeans after visiting Sweden, Spain, Germany and France. "They have euros, but it's a challenge for them as well," he said. "A lot of the chip designs [come out] of the use of bank cards and driver's licenses."
Former colleagues at Time-Life say Jellen will have no problem selling intelligent documents. He was president of Time-Life Books and Time-Life Direct, in Alexandria, Va., before joining GPO as a consultant in the New Business Development Office in September 2003.
Peter Toth, former vice president of marketing at Time-Life, said Jellen is able to identify interesting ideas that have potential and sell them. "He's a good salesman," Toth said.
He added that Jellen's patience is a valuable trait for a government official to have. "He's comfortable with delays and going back and forth," Toth said. "He doesn't get frustrated easily."
Jellen's publishing experience at Time-Life should also serve him well in his new capacity. He is still involved in the business of printing, but this time, the ink will go on passports, smart cards, RFID tags and visitor badge systems.
Jellen is at his best when he is creating business plans, his former colleagues say. His experience at Time-Life taught Jellen how to translate ideas into profits. He published successful do-it-yourself books on home improvements and cooking.
His business skills fit right into his job at GPO, which is to translate talk about RFID into sales of government documents. His pitch is simple. "Do you use
E-ZPass [to pay highway tolls]? That uses RFID."
Bob Tapella, GPO's chief of staff, hired Jellen. Tapella said Jellen has skills that the office needed, adding that "what Larry has been able to do is identify some of the absolute core competencies of GPO."
Jellen views the challenges at GPO as rewarding. "There's that element of that James Bond kind of thing with security and intelligence," he said, "There's never a dull moment."