GSA's new handbook reflects the rise of smart cards

With more than 4 million smart cards in use governmentwide, federal agencies are ready to take the technology beyond the experimental stage.

In the General Services Administration's new Government Smart Card Handbook, released last month, officials said many agencies have put smart cards in play.

'We can conclude with confidence that the technology is no longer experimental,' GSA officials noted in the handbook. 'Instead, the application of smart cards within government has developed into a proven asset with a quantifiable return on investment that has facilitated and secured the process employees use to access government facilities and resources.'

This is the first update for the handbook in almost four years. GSA in August awarded BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., a six-month, $169,000 contract to redo the 246-page book.

The revised handbook includes updated information about technical standards, privacy implications, managerial support and employee training. It also offers a number of technical, management, cost, and standards and interoperability recommendations, as well as lessons learned from agency smart-card project leaders.

'The goals of the handbook are to offer a valuable hands-on resource that will facilitate the reader's understanding of smart cards, cite case studies of smart-card engagements in government and map the process for implementing smart cards through the careful consideration of task order criteria and key decisions,' GSA officials said.

One of the most important lessons learned, the handbook said, is the need for agencies to bring together program managers, physical-access personnel and IT support staff as they develop smart-card requirements.

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