DOD plans central office for issuing smart cards

The Defense Department late next year will open a new central facility to hand out Common Access smart cards to recruits and new personnel at very remote sites, said Mary Dixon, director of the Common Access Card Office of the Defense Manpower Data Center.

The CAC program will continue its decentralized manner of distribution, however. About 900 sites around the world now issue the cards with digital certificates and multiple forms of identification. The central facility will serve areas where it is impractical or costly to set up a card operation, Dixon said.

Because of the high volume of cards for recruits, supplying them from one location is more efficient, Dixon said. She predicted the new facility will produce at least 40,000 cards per year for recruits.

The facility should be ready by October 2004, she said, and initially it will not be contracted out. Dixon declined to reveal the cost of the facility or its location.

Remote registration would begin at a field site, which would gather identifying information about individuals and transmit it to the central facility. Cards would be shipped to the local unit within three days by a form of secure mail such as Federal Express.

One person at the local unit would receive the cards, and a different person would get the personal identification numbers. That would eliminate the risk of compromise should any cards be stolen en route, Dixon said.

So far, the CAC program has issued more than 3.8 million of an estimated 4 million total. The program also has started issuing replacement cards.

With about 12,000 to 15,000 cards going out per day, the initial round should be done by March, Dixon said.

The smart cards go to active-duty service members, civilian employees, contractors and reservists for network authentication, physical access and digital signatures for online transactions.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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