Defense pushes smart-card rollout into spring

'It's a challenge be-cause there's a lot of rules and policies, especially when you are giving PKI certificates to folks.' 'DOD's Mike Butler

The Defense Department now expects that it will take until early spring to finish distributing more than 4 million Common Access Cards'roughly six months longer than originally planned.

DOD still must dole out about 500,000 Common Access Cards.

The department had planned to issue all the cards by October to active-duty service members, civilian and contract workers, and some reservists.

Holders use the smart cards for network authentication and digital signatures on the department's public-key infrastructure.

But Mike Butler, chief of smart-card programs for DOD's Access Card Program Office, said the scope of the project made the deadline extension necessary. The department has been issuing between 10,000 and 14,000 cards per day.

'You can just imagine getting all these people showing up at some of the [card-issuing] stations, and we have about 1,500 of those worldwide,' Butler said.

The Smart Card Senior Coordinating Group decided in September to push the deadline back to avoid an onslaught of last-minute waiver requests.

'It's a big logistics deal,' Butler said. 'It's a challenge because there's a lot of rules and policies, especially when you are giving PKI certificates to folks. Just the encoding time on the CAC takes about five minutes.'

Pick a card

To date, 3.7 million users have received smart cards since the program began more than three years ago.

The cards use the Java Card Runtime Environment and have 32K of memory.

After the new April deadline, Butler said, the DOD Access Card Office is looking ahead to the next wave of smart cards, which will have 64K of memory. The next-generation cards will include digital images and biometric identifiers. DOD's medical organizations also are working on standard data elements to include on the cards.

The office is also looking at deploying readers at bases and other DOD facilities so the smart cards can govern physical access automatically. Now, Defense personnel show their smart cards to security personnel when entering Defense facilities.

'When I walk into most places to gain access today, even though I have a very sophisticated system on my body, I'm still flashing it to a guard,' Butler said.

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