DOD broadens PKI parameters

The Defense Department has decided to accept public-key infrastructure certificates from outside parties for the first time.

The new policy will give a big push of PKI acceptance among contractors and government agencies, said Paul Grant, special assistant for identification management and external partnering in DOD’s Office of the Defense Chief Information Officer.

“Absolutely, this will have a major impact on the acceptance of PKI,” Grant said. “It is going to get momentum now.”

On July 22, DOD CIO John Grimes distributed a memo outlining the new policy. The external authorities that issue PKI certifications must also use identification cards that are compliant with federal Personal Identification Verification standards.

Previously, DOD only accepted such certificates issued under its own authority. Those certificates currently are issued by DOD-authorized vendors Operational Research Consultants Inc., VeriSign Inc. and IdenTrust Inc.

The new policy opens the door for acceptance of such certificates, along  with compliant ID cards, issued by eligible vendors affiliated with the Federal Bridge Certification Authority, which services federal agencies, and by a private bridge authority, Certipath, of Herndon, Va.

Certipath is a joint venture based in Herndon, Va. It was formed by several PKI vendors along with major defense contractors. Federal contractors that meet Certipath’s information assurance standards are eligible to apply for membership.

To date, Certipath members Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are the only contractors that are fully eligible to participate in the new policy, Grant said.

“This has taken a long time to get into place,” Grant said.  “We had to prove what the value of PKI was.” 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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