FAA will run Transportation smart-card pilot

Depending on how successful the pilot is, the cards will be adopted throughout the Transportation Department next year, FAA's Mike Brown says.

(GCN Photo by Henrik G. DeGyor)

The Federal Aviation Administration will pilot the use of smart cards for Transportation Department personnel by distributing cards to 50,000 FAA employees and contract workers.

Bids responding to an agency request for proposals were due last week. FAA plans to award a contract by August.

'The (identification) cards we are using now are more prone to counterfeiting, and we have always wanted to move to holograms or smart cards,' said Ross Hamory, FAA's director of security and investigations.

Mike Brown, FAA's director of information security, said the agency will use multifunction cards with photographs and 32-bit chips to store data, including biometrics such as fingerprints or iris scans. The cards will be coded in Java and will be expandable to 64 bits, Brown said.

The agency also is assessing the usefulness of technologies such as 2-D bar codes, magnetic stripes, encryption and authentication, and radio frequency transmitters for the cards, Brown said.

FAA has not determined what kinds of databases it will use to store the card information.

Looking to expand

Depending on the pilot's progress, Transportation plans to adopt the cards for departmentwide use sometime next year, Brown said.

Although the Aviation and Transportation Security Act requires Transportation to develop a universal worker ID system, Hamory said FAA already had wanted to replace its ID cards with better technology.

FAA is working closely with the General Services Administration, which has developed smart card interoperability specifications.

Bill Holcombe, director of e-business technologies for GSA, said in the next few weeks GSA will establish a group of representatives from numerous agencies, including FAA, to look into the use of smart cards over the next five years. For instance, the group will consider whether smart cards should carry radio-frequency transmitters.

FAA's use of smart cards will be the second-largest rollout in the federal government, after the Defense Department's Common Access Card program. DOD plans to distribute cards with photographs and encoded with digital certificates and encryption keys to 4 million users.

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