Smart Card Alliance Conference Highlights

Smart ID issuing underway for federal employees, maritime workers and registered travelers


At the Smart Card Alliance Annual Conference, government identity management programs took center stage as the Alliance kicked off its conference, which took place last week at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf.

Critical security initiatives have now entered the issuing phase and over the next year will put millions of smart card-based IDs in the hands of all maritime workers at the nation's seaports and all federal employees, program managers told conference attendees Tuesday. And the Registered Traveler program is now speeding frequent flyers through 12 airports nationwide, with more coming.

These and other highlights from conference speakers include:

Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC)

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and U.S. Coast Guard plan to issue secure Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) to 750,000 maritime workers and merchant mariners at U.S. seaports took a big step forward.

"As of 9 am this morning our enrollment website was up, and real workers at the Port of Wilmington can begin the process of applying for the TWIC card," John Schwartz, assistant director of the TWIC Program Office announced yesterday. With credential issuing at this first port fully underway starting next Monday, TSA plans to move fast. "Our goal is to have 50 major ports up and running by January," Schwartz said. TSA plans to have all of the TWIC credentials issued within 15 months of this initial rollout.

The smart card-based TWICs are tamper-resistant biometric credentials containing the worker's fingerprint template to allow for a positive link between the card itself and the individual. Embedded in the card is a dual interface microprocessor chip, a small computer chip that can be read by either inserting the card in a slot in a "contact" card reader or by holding the card within 10 centimeters of a "contactless" card reader.

"The TWIC program, like the U.S. electronic passport program, is an excellent example of using smart card technology in a way that provides high security and protects personal privacy at the same time," said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance.

Due to the harsh maritime environment, program managers wanted to use secure contactless technology for better reliability of cards and readers. At the same time, they wanted a high level of personal security. The solution was to encrypt the contactless transmission of the biometric template from the TWIC card to the reader.

The program is being implemented in two parts, first getting ID cards issued and then deploying readers at entry points to the ports. The next step is to pilot test readers in labs, with full operational tests planned for mid 2008.

GSA Shared Services and HSPD-12

As federal agencies come to grips with the reality of issuing PIV-II smart cards to comply with the looming HSPD-12 deadline, the shared services option developed by the General Services Administration has won a lot of recent converts--67 federal agencies representing 860,000 federal employees and contractors to be exact, according to Michael Butler, program manager for the project. GSA branded the program USAccess.

After making a contract award in April, the GSA began issuing cards in September. The program is on track to issue hundreds of thousands of cards in the coming year and meet the program's deadlines, Butler said.

"In little over four months GSA stood up this program and is now issuing cards," said Vanderhoof. "It's a real achievement and a testimony to GSA's partners and their team."

Pooling demand under a shared services contract benefited government agencies in terms of cost and investment, Butler reported. The GSA charges a $49 initial cost for PIV-II credentials, with an ongoing $3 per month infrastructure support cost.

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