GAO finds gaps in secure credentialing

Auditors warn that agencies might miss the program’s October deadline

GAO report: “Electronic Government: Agencies Face Challenges in Implementing New Federal Employee Id

Related Links

Congressional auditors are concerned that federal agencies lack sufficient guidance from the Office of Management and Budget on how to conduct background checks on foreign nationals before issuing them computer-readable identity credentials. Beginning Oct. 27, agencies must issue smart cards to federal employees and contractors.

Government Accountability Office auditors warn in a new report that the federal government might miss the October deadline. The GAO report also questions whether the federal government can accomplish the major objective of the secure identity credentialing program: a standard credential that authorized employees can use to access federal facilities and federal information systems.

OMB has agreed to let some agencies meet the deadline by implementing transitional smart card systems that don’t fully meet the technical standard, known as Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 201. OMB has not set a deadline for agencies using transitional systems to adopt the FIPS 201 standard.

Meanwhile, agencies face significant management challenges in testing and buying smart cards and card readers that meet the FIPS 201 standard. GAO is also concerned that agencies will struggle with budget uncertainties and unknown costs.

The auditors criticize OMB for providing incomplete guidance on how FIPS 201 applies to securing federal facilities and information systems and to verifying the identities of federal employees and contractors. “We disagree with GAO’s assertion that our guidance is ‘incomplete,’ ” wrote Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and information technology at OMB, in a letter.

GAO recommended that OMB’s director monitor agencies’ progress in complying with the FIPS 201 standard by establishing reporting procedures. Evans said OMB would monitor the program using its existing management and budget tools.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group