HSPD-12 to get its first field test

The Pentagon will host an exercise next week to demonstrate smart-card interoperability among federal, state and local emergency personnel in the Washington metro area.

The Winter Fox exercise, scheduled for Feb. 23, would be the first field test of the First Responders Access Card, an initiative of the multigovernmental National Capital Region. The card is expected to meet technical specifications for the federally mandated Personal Identity Verification card.

The Virginia and Maryland departments of transportation have begun issuing FRACs in pilot programs.

The First Responder Partnership Initiative includes agencies in Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties in Virginia; as well as Washington and federal agencies including the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Health and Human Services.

The FRAC program was announced in August and is managed by the DHS Office of National Capital Region Coordination and funded through DHS grants.

The cards are intended to enable communication and access across jurisdictional boundaries during emergencies. The need for such a tool became apparent when the Pentagon was attacked Sept. 11, 2001, said Lamar Jones, director of the DOD Force Protection Agency's antiterrorism directorate.

'Because of command and control, a lot of us couldn't get back to the incident site' because access was blocked at multiple federal, state and local boundaries, Jones said at a meeting Wednesday of the Government Smart Card Interagency Advisory Board.

Winter Fox will provide proof of concept for an interoperable card that could help alleviate such problems.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12mandated development of the PIV card, an interoperable, electronically verifiable form of identification to be used by federal employees and contractors for IT and physical access. Federal Information Processing Standard 201 spells out technical standards for the card, which agencies must begin issuing in lieu of current ID cards in October.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology still is fine-tuning FIPS 201 and aligning the supporting technical specifications and guidelines, and plans are being finalized for testing and certifying products. Judith Spencer, chairwoman of the General Services Administration's Federal ID Credentialing Committee, said Wednesday that industry appears ready to provide services for issuing and managing the cards by the October deadline.

'The next two or three years are going to be a ramp-up period,' with 'manic activity' as agencies begin issuing millions of the cards, Spencer said. 'Things should normalize again' after that time, she added.

The Defense Department already has issued more than 4 million Common Access Cards, a smart military ID card that is being brought into line with HSPD-12 requirements. Outside the federal government, Virginia and Maryland are the first states to begin adopting the standards. Both will be participating in Winter Fox.

W. Duane Stafford of the Virginia Department of Transportation's Security and Emergency Management Division said FRACs are being issued on a trial basis for physical access to a single Northern Virginia facility and to incident sites.

Maryland's DOT issued the first of 2,000 test cards Feb. 14. The cards are being issued as part of the Port of Baltimore's Access Control System upgrade and are expected to be used for physical access to port facilities by June. The cards will go to members of the Maryland National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard, and to emergency personnel in the city of Baltimore and eight Baltimore-Washington area counties.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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