Cards on Wheels

Cards on Wheels

Mobile smart card issuance trailers can outfit 24 DOD users per hour with Common Access cards over either wired or wireless connections. The trailers connect to base networks wherever they go.

The Navy cards will control access to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.

DOD will roll out Common Access cards to 4.5 million users in the next 13 months

The Defense Department is turning to mobile offices to finish issuing 4.5 million Common Access smart cards by the end of next year.

The military and civilian identity cards store enough data for strong physical and logical access control. But issuing each card takes about 15 minutes, and the holder must appear in person. To speed things up and reduce travel, the Navy and Air Force have begun buying 40-foot trailers called Mobile CAC Issuance Laboratories from Anteon Corp. of Fairfax, Va.

'We can put these where the customers are,' said Robert J. Carey, the Navy's electronic business director.

Each trailer, with its own power supply and wired and wireless network connections, houses six computer stations. It can issue up to 24 cards an hour. Although most of the Navy's personnel will get their cards at fixed offices, the mobile units 'buy us flexibility,' Carey said.

The first mobile office, which cost about $100,000, went into operation in March, issuing about 16,000 cards at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

On Sept. 17 it traveled to Arlington, Va., to help reissue hundreds of Common Access cards that were lost in the Sept. 11 attack on the nearby Pentagon.

'A lot of folks, when they ran from the building, left their wallets and other personal belongings behind and lost their cards,' said Henry C. Giffin, director of combat systems lifecycle support for Anteon.

More coming

The Navy bought three more units in June. 'We are considering one or two more when we go hot and heavy issuing cards fleetwide,' Carey said.

The Air Force issued a task order for three of the units for $464,000 and might order up to 20. The Army also is considering the mobile offices, Giffin said.

A Common Access card shows the holder's photograph and other printed information. Embedded in it is a 32K microprocessor loaded at issuance with a digital certificate to verify the holder's identity. It can serve for access control, as well as a public-key infrastructure encryption key for secure messages and digital signatures.

The holder gets a password for the digital certificate and key after appearing in person before the issuer and presenting a current DOD identity card plus one other form of identification.

The issuer, who also must have a digital certificate, accesses the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System database through the Real-time Automated Personnel Identification System to verify identity and generate a digital certificate.

The mobile offices connect to base networks wherever they are located.

Giffin, a former vice admiral who retired last year as commander of surface forces in the Atlantic fleet, said the card's real value is for data access.

'I was a critic of smart cards several years ago,' he said, considering them clumsy and risky as a data repository. But for access to online data, they are practical, he said.

The Navy cards will control access to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, which means that card issuance must keep up with the rollout of the network.

'Our goal is to stay ahead of NMCI,' Carey said.

Mobile units will provide flexibility to do that and also will respond to fleet deployments, traveling to sites such as Marine camps at Lejeune, N.C., and Pendleton, Calif., and naval bases in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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