Navy tests provide clues for DOD-wide use of biometrics on smart cards

Navy tests provide clues for DOD-wide use of biometrics on smart cards

A pair of Navy pilot programs has demonstrated the use of biometric smart cards for physical access control.

"We didn't do anything new with these projects," said Capt. Chris Vitt, acting commander of the Navy's eBusiness Operations Office. The programs at Norfolk, Va., and Honolulu, Hawaii, integrated off-the-shelf contactless card technology with existing Navy access programs.

At the Space and Warfare Systems Center in Norfolk a single fingerprint template was used from August 2002 to November 2003. At the Pacific Command in Honolulu both hand geometry and fingerprint data was used in a program that wrapped up in October.

The two pilots are part of an effort to put some standardization into Defense Department physical access systems, said Vitt yesterday at the CardTech-SecurTech conference in Washington.

The Navy's smart-card office and its program for DOD's Common Access Card program became part of the eBusiness Operations Office in October 2001. The office is in charge of issuing CACs to nearly 1 million Navy military and civilian workers and oversees the Navy's real estate on the card's smart chip.

DOD plans to integrate biometrics into its logical and physical access controls "to an optimal extent" by 2010, Vitt said. A decision is expected in the coming months on whether to include biometric data in the next-generation CACs.

"We are looking at many alternatives," Vitt said, and no decision has been made about CAC biometrics, but the Navy pilots provided a practical demonstration of the technology.

Both pilots used standard 1K contactless chips and required the addition of readers at access points. Vitt said in both cases integrating the biometric data with existing back-end systems was easy and provided an additional authentication factor. The Navy's Space and Warfare Systems Center in Charleston, S.C., provided the systems engineering for the pilots.

Placing two biometric templates on a 1K chip "was a pretty significant step forward," Vitt said.

Vitt's office has provided the DOD Biometrics Office with program results, but the pilots worked well enough that the eBusiness Operations Office is implementing the technology at its headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Pa., Vitt said. The office has installed 14 readers and enrolled 98 people so far, using a fingerprint template on a1K chip.

Lessons learned during the pilots center on education and user acceptance rather than on the technology, Vitt said.

"Make sure up front you train folks," he said, both the end users and the system operators. Knowing what is being done and why helps ensure buy-in from the people who have to use the cards, he said. "Also involve your systems administrators," so they can help users.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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