ID cards need GSA standards

Rules would let PIV II cards talk to physical-access control and HR systems

On Oct. 28, it will not be pretty, but there will be more days to work on this.'

'John Sindelar, GSA

Rick Steele

Without a standard set of interfaces, the identification cards issued under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 would be nothing more than souped-up flash passes.

That's the risk the General Services Administration is working to avoid. It has contracted with Enspier Technologies Inc. of Alexandria, Va., to standardize nine interfaces between the ID management system and other systems that would make the card operational. Agencies must start issuing Personal Identity Verification II cards Oct. 27.

Not ready yet

But the interfaces'which would let the identity management system communicate with the physical-access control system, agency human-resources systems and other systems'are far from finished.

'I put the interfaces in order from one to nine and asked agencies whether they agree with me,' said Mike Butler, who is working for GSA on HSPD-12. 'Then we can figure out what help we need from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and get them finished. The interfaces need to be done by October.'

Industry experts and federal officials agreed with Butler on the importance of the interfaces. Many added that, without them, vendors will have a hard time developing a complete system that meets Federal Information Processing Standard 201-1.

'How will they evaluate solutions under a request for proposal when they don't know what the interfaces will be?' said an official from a vendor involved in HSPD-12 work. 'The other problem is the question on interoperability with the approved-products list. If you don't have a defined system with interface specifications, then you can have an approved product become noncompliant.'

John Sindelar, acting associate administrator in GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy, said agencies still can issue cards, though they might not be fully operational.

'Once we develop the standards, we will give them to everyone,' Sindelar said at an HSPD-12 conference in Washington earlier this month sponsored by the Potomac Forum Inc. of Potomac, Md. 'We could slip the interface standards into the systems once they are done.'

Repeated calls to Enspier to find out the status of the interfaces were not returned.

The industry official said the interfaces shouldn't be difficult to write.

'Agencies will end up with vendor de facto standards if they are not finished,' the official added.

Butler said the top two interfaces on his list are for the enrollment systems and for the agency interfaces with the HR systems.

In addition to the interfaces still needing work, Sindelar said, GSA is working on a concept-of-operations document and the governance structure of HSPD-12 services.

The governance structure would set the process for providing oversight of the shared-services providers and work with agencies on contractor-related issues. OMB's HSPD-12 Executive Steering Committee is working on this issue.

'I believe GSA will step up and do this,' Sindelar said.

Roles and responsibilities

GSA also is working with the Agriculture and Interior departments to fully define the concept of operations.

Sindelar said the document would outline the roles and responsibilities of the shared-services providers and agency customers, and put them into a memorandum of understanding.

The CONOPS also would explain the cost model to pay for the services.

'We hope to set up a managed-services office to work on this,' Sindelar said.

The industry official said the concept of operations is the most important piece that needs to be finished.

'If you can't define what you are trying to do, then why define the interface specifications?' the official said. 'Having a governance structure also is key, so you know that what you are implementing meets the standards.'

Sindelar admitted that while there still is a lot of work that needs to be done, the mandate will move forward.

'On Oct. 28, it will not be pretty, but there will be more days to work on this,' he said.

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