Agencies beginning to look beyond Oct. 27

Full HSPD-12 implementation will take years

If you look at where we've come since June, the whole government has turned and gone into action on this. I think it's pretty awesome,' said Mike Butler, IAB chairman.

Rick Steele

Mike Butler is a realist. The veteran of smart-card battles both in Defense and civilian agencies is aware that it will take a while before the government feels the full impact of implementing Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.

After all, it will take at least two years before every agency employee is issued a new identification card, and Butler said it could take longer than that before everything comes together.

'In the long term, we won't understand the success until months and months from now,' said Butler, chairman of the Government Smart Card Interagency Advisory Board.

The General Services Administration brought on Butler, who also serves as the chief of the Defense Department's smart-card programs, this past summer to help the civilian agencies grapple with HSPD-12, and their upcoming deadline to have the ability to issue new smart ID cards by Oct. 27.

With that deadline literally days away, he is cautiously optimistic ' but optimistic nonetheless ' that not only will most agencies comply, but the new ID cards will make the government safer and more secure, and bring about all kinds of innovations that have yet to be fathomed.

'If you look at where we've come since June, the whole government has turned and gone into action on this,' he said. 'I think it's pretty awesome. There may be a few folks who get this wrong, but I think we'll get a pretty good showing.'

At this point, Butler and other officials involved in HSPD-12 developments are convinced that the two agencies acting as shared-services providers for the bulk of the government ' GSA and the Interior Department's National Business Center ' will have the infrastructure to issue HSPD-12 compliant cards on or, in GSA's case, before Oct. 27.

In fact, Michael Colburn, NBC program manager for HSPD-12 initiatives, recently said at a conference in Washington that NBC can help agencies meet the mandate with a product that is better than the solution being proffered by GSA's Managed Services Office.

He said because NBC is a shared-services provider approved by the Office of Management and Budget for several Lines of Business, including human resources, financial management and payroll, his organization can tie HSPD-12 to the LOBs in ways no one else can.

'We will be leveraging a tried-and-true service delivery model,' he said, adding that NBC has not lost any customers for its services. 'We are constantly gaining new customers because of our reputation on the street.'

NBC earlier this month awarded IBM Corp. a $41 million, five-year contract to issue as many as 400,000 smart cards. Under its current pricing scheme, Colburn estimated that individual cards would cost $120.66, which includes issuance and one year of maintenance. As the number of customers increases, the card price drops, he said.
For example, if NBC reaches 300,000 customers, the price will drop to $100.63.

GSA, meanwhile, says its cards will cost approximately $110, and, like the NBC deal, its contract with BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va. ' which is being protested ' allows for a reduction in price as volume increases.

Neither Butler nor David Temoshok, GSA's director of identity management and policy, would comment on which SSP would provide the best services; instead, both noted that just getting to this point ' where agencies have two viable choices ' is, in many ways, a victory.

'The fact that GSA awarded a contract in August and has signed up 400,000 people in 40 agencies, and NBC awarded a contract and has signed up several agencies, that's a good chunk of the government right there,' Butler said.

It's the other 10 or so agencies going it alone, Butler and others said, that are worrisome. These agencies include the Education, Homeland Security, State, Labor, Transportation and Veterans Affairs departments, as well as the Social Security Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

When contacted by GCN, these agencies said they were on target to meet the Oct. 27 deadline; indeed, SSA expects to issue at least one card before the deadline.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department and several others using GSA's services also expect to issue cards early this week.

And in his role as IAB chairman, Butler in mid-October asked all agencies planning on meeting the mandate on their own ' including GSA and NBC ' to send him test cards to demonstrate that they are at least on the right track.

Although he estimates that 80 percent of agencies will be able to issue compliant cards by Friday, some officials are concerned that more variation between agency ID management systems ' even if all the HSPD-12 products are tested for interoperability ' means there could be integration problems in the future.

One agency official involved in the issue, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there is some concern that a few agencies going it alone may not understand the complexity of HSPD-12.

'My concern is that agencies that have not been as actively involved [in the HSPD-12 discussions] may not understand the longer-term goal' of the mandate, the official said. 'If they see it as a deadline, they may not see this with a longer-term view, and that worries me.'

Some of the go-it-alone agencies, though, made their decision because they grew frustrated at the slow pace at which GSA and NBC finalized their offerings. An official at one agency, who requested anonymity, said their HSPD-12 officials 'got sick and tired of waiting for GSA to act.'

Chris Niedermayer, associate CIO at the Agriculture Department and chairman of the HSPD-12 Executive Steering Committee, acknowledged the frustration but said that the timeline ' HSPD-12 was signed by President Bush in August 2004, giving the government two years to begin issuing cards ' left little wiggle room.

'I think agencies would've had an easier option [to sign up with an SSP], but because [GSA and NBC didn't make their selections] until the end of the planning period, many agencies went alone,' he said. 'We are where we are.'

But Niedermayer said he believes choosing an SSP is the best route, not only for an individual agency, but for the government as well.

'GSA, NBC, EPA, they all have these systems, and they all need to feed data to each other's systems,' he said. 'This is a many-to-many relationship that has to be synchronized and set up in a way that's workable. That's going to take some time to pull those pieces together.'

Still, that the government appears so close to meeting the mandate should not be lost, he said.

'We'll hit a huge milestone to make us a safer country,' Niedermayer said. 'To get to where we are now was a Herculean effort. If we didn't get here, we can't get anywhere else.'

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