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Military ID Cards Get Smart

Military ID Cards Get Smart

By Staff Sgt. Cynthia Miller, Air Force Print News.

Washington D.C. -- (AFPN) December 8, 1999 -- The standard United States military identification card will get a whole lot smarter when the Air Force implements use of a common access card late next year.

The smart card, under development for the past eight years, features an embedded microchip, a magnetic strip and a bar code. These features will allow the card to access various data sources, computer network systems, and to be used for building entry. The new card will remain color-coded.

"We are on track for issuing the first smart cards in late 2000," said Craig Wade, an Air Force representative in the Department of Defense Access Card Office. "But we still have a lot of things to be worked out -- like figuring out what, beyond basic demographic information such as name, rank and social security number -- they [the Air Force] want to put on the card. There are a couple of different timelines being looked at, but you can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that by mid-2002 all active duty members will have smart cards."

Beyond the convenience of eliminating the need for special access badges and building passes, the smart card's application toward mobility should reduce processing time from three or four hours to 40 minutes.

According to Susan O'Neal, director of plans and integration for deployment, the smart card will access a service member's mobility training records, shot records, power of attorney authority,and other information, with a single swipe, and will automatically generate a mobility manifest.

Smart cards aren't a new technology. They have been issued to Air Force Academy cadets and new recruits at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for the past four years, but were limited to performing specific functions.

The new cards, according to Col. Bernie Skoch, director of chief information office support, are like computers in general.

"If you go back and historically look at computer applications, they were very limited," he said. "But if you look at where computers are used now, they're everywhere, and no one could have predicted that. In many respects smart card technology is like that."

The colonel predicts the smart card of the future will be issued upon entrance into the Air Force and will last throughout a career.

"You will have one smart card that carries you forever," he said. "It will have all your personnel and medical information on it, you'll log onto your computer networks with it, it'll verify that you're an authorized purchaser at the base supply store and automatically charge your unit's account. When you PCS, the in- and out-processing checklists will be built into the card."

The information contained on smart cards will be secured through the use of personal identification numbers. As part of the Public Key Infrastructure, smart cards will have a security mechanism to ensure cardholders are who they say they are when trying to access data sources.

PKI is a digital authentication mechanism that can be used in a wide variety of ways, from signing documents to providing network access.

"This system will be secure," Skoch said. "We're being very deliberate, very careful on developing an implementation strategy. Through PKI we can virtually assure privacy."

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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