Quantico Marines are first to get smart cards

Quantico Marines are first to get smart cards

Common Access cards hold digital photos, bar codes, even Geneva Convention data for active-duty personnel

BY SUSAN M. MENKE AND

MATT MCLAUGHLIN
| GCN STAFF

About 200 members of the Marine Corps at the base in Quantico, Va., are the first in the Defense Department to receive digital certificates on Common Access smart cards as their standard military IDs.

Late last month, a test group of Marines led the charge 'to work out the bumps and stumbles' in the certificate registration process for the identification cards, said Lt. Col. Trent Beck, assistant program manager for smart cards and public-key infrastructure in the Marine Corps Systems Command.

Working with the General Services Administration's smart-card program, the command so far has issued about 200 cards, some of them dummies, at an estimated cost of $6 to $8 per card, Beck said.

Each vertically oriented card bears the Marine Corps emblem, a digital photo of the cardholder on both sides, bar codes, a magnetic strip, a microbattery and an integrated-circuit chip. The Geneva Convention code also is imprinted on cards for active-duty personnel.

'I think we're good to go now,' Beck said. Card readers and middleware were on their way last week for retrofitting the Corps' existing PCs, he said.

The testers each spent about 15 minutes enrolling at a certificate workstation with a biometric authentication device. The workstation connected to a Defense Information Systems Agency server in Chambersburg, Pa., which stored information about each person, including the digital photo and a fingerprint.

Each Marine had to prove identity by supplying other information, including a current e-mail address, after which the system downloaded a digital certificate for each Common Access smart card.

Does all this

With the stored certificate, a cardholder can digitally sign e-mail and other documents, encrypt information, and establish secure Web sessions to access and update information.

Defense announced in October that it would issue the cards first to personnel at Quantico and the Pentagon. The GSA program's Web site, at www.smartcard.gov, lists a series of other beta test sites in the Corps and the other military services.

The 32K cards eventually will allow physical access to secure areas, permit entry to DOD's computer networks and serve as authentication tokens for the department's PKI. The department will issue the cards to all active-duty personnel, some members of reserve forces, civilian employees and eligible contract personnel.

Thirteen cards at Quantico will be set aside as PKI tokens for information for the Dependents Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.

The cards hold critical data about medical conditions, allergies and blood types. They will not hold all of a service member's medical, dental or service history but will provide access to a database of such information.

Yep, you're you

Also this year, Defense sites will install upgraded software for the Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System, whose applications will work with the smart cards.

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