RAPIDS response

Online scheduling helps Defense manage ID card appointments

UP TO SPEED: With a system that lets people make and reschedule appointments ' and alerts them to possible delays ' issuing Common Access Cards takes closer to 15 minutes than to two hours.

U.S. Air Force photo illustration

Time is one of the most limited and most valuable resources in any agency, civilian or military. The Defense Manpower Data Center, or DMCC, uses a lot of it ' and not always efficiently ' in getting the department's Common Access Cards into the hands of millions of service personnel, civilian employees and contractors.

'People show up at different times on different days' at the stations issuing the cards, said Rick Pratt, identification management specialist at EDS, the prime contractor supporting the Defense Department's card-issuing process. 'The enrollment centers would be empty some days, some days they would be packed.'
DMDC has about 900 sites with more than 2,000 workstations issuing CACs through its Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS). Issuing the smart CAC ID takes about 15 minutes if there are no delays, but employees can wait hours at an issuing center if their timing is not good.

RAPIDS enrollment centers now have an online scheduling option to help them use their time and the time of their customers more efficiently. A one-year pilot by DMDC and the Navy of the TimeTrade Enterprise Scheduling Application at three sites in Norfolk, Va., in 2004 and 2005 helped smooth the process at one of the Navy's largest and busiest ports.

'It was a more powerful tool than we had thought,' Pratt said. It not only let individuals make their own appointments either online or by phone, it also provides automated reminders of the appointments, alerts users to possible delays and allows rescheduling. It also generates reports to track enrollment and issuing times and tell managers how efficiently manpower is being used. 'It allows them to manage easily what is happening at the enrollment center.'

'There is great interest in appointment-scheduling tools in government,' said Marco Peterson, chairman at TimeTrade Systems. Much of that interest is driven by new ID and other documentation requirements.

DMDC is in the early stages of adopting the TimeTrade scheduling tool. It also is being used by Citizenship and Immigration Services for issuing cards to immigrants and by the Law Enforcement Training Academy for scheduling courses and testing.
TimeTrade has a contract on the General Services Administration schedule for issuing the Personal Identity Verification cards being adopted by civilian agencies, and for the Transportation Worker Identification Card program.
The value of the application is that it provides visibility for all parties involved in an appointment to a central time inventory. The alternative is to 'open the doors and let the masses come in,' said Mike Ketter, TimeTrade director of sales support.

The application offers three ways to schedule. Self-service is available through a Web interface using a Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition application or an interactive voice-response telephone system. A call center application is used for assisted scheduling. All three channels have real-time visibility into the pool of appointment times and use the same back-end software to schedule according to each organization's business rules.

The application is available as a product that the customer runs in its own facilities or as a hosted service, which TimeTrade runs in its data center.
'Government currently prefers to run it in their own data centers behind their firewalls,' Peterson said. But that mindset is beginning to change with the growing recognition of the value and efficiencies of software as a service.

Hosted service

For the Norfolk pilot, the application was hosted by TimeTrade in its Massachusetts data center, Pratt said. EDS took care of training at the enrollment sites, and no hardware or software needed to be set up.

The pilot program came about after TimeTrade representatives met in 2004 with Mike Butler, then director of the DMDC Access Card Office. At the time, he was not in the market for a CAC scheduling tool, Ketter said.

'We approached him,' Ketter said. 'He was doing us a favor.' But at the time of the meeting, Butler's wife had just been issued her own CAC card, a process that had included hours of waiting. 'A light bulb went off,' Ketter said.

DOD has so far issued more than 13 million Common Access Cards, the government's first large-scale foray into issuing smart IDs.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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