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Government Applications

Smart Card Alliance Government Resources

U.S. Federal Government Smart Card Programs

Smart card technology is currently recognized as the most appropriate technology for identity applications that must meet critical security requirements. Countries around the world use smart cards for secure identity, payment, and healthcare applications. In addition, public corporations use smart employee ID cards to secure access to physical facilities and computer systems and networks.

The U.S. Federal government has standardized on smart cards for employee and contractor identification cards and is also specifying smart cards in new identity programs for citizens, transportation workers and first responders.

HSPD-12, FIPS 201 and the PIV Card

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), issued by President George W. Bush on August 27, 2004, mandated the establishment of a standard for identification of Federal government employees and contractors. HSPD-12 requires the use of a common identification credential for both logical and physical access to federally controlled facilities and information systems. The Department of Commerce and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were tasked with producing a standard for secure and reliable forms of identification. In response, NIST published Federal Information Processing Standard Publication 201 (FIPS 201), Personal Identity Verification (PIV) of Federal Employees and Contractors, issued on February 25, 2005, and a number of special publications that provide more detail on the implementation of the standard.

Both Federal agencies and enterprises are now implementing FIPS 201-compliant ID programs and issuing PIV cards. The FIPS 201 PIV card is a smart card with both contact and contactless interfaces that is now being issued to all Federal employees and contractors. Within the next five years, GSA estimates that 12 million PIV cards will be used in the Federal Government alone, driving a significant expansion of FIPS 201 infrastructure and applications.

As a result of non-federal issuers (NFIs) of identity cards expressing a desire to produce identity cards that can technically interoperate with Federal government PIV systems and can be trusted by Federal government relying parties, the Federal CIO Council published the guidance document, Personal Identity Verification Interoperability for Non-Federal Issuers. A PIV interoperable (PIV-I) credential is of great value to organizations that collaborate or do business with the Federal government and have a requirement to issue interoperable identity credentials.

Additional information about FIPS 201 can be found on the Government Identity/Credentialing Resources page, from NIST and from the Smart Card Alliance Access Control Council.

Department of Defense Common Access Card

One of the most advanced smart ID card programs in the United States is the Department of Defense (DoD) Common Access Card (CAC), a smart card that serves as the DoD standard identification for active duty military personnel, selected reserve personnel, civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel. The CAC is the principal card used for logical access to DoD computer networks and systems, and will be the principal card used to enable physical access as systems are installed for authentication and access at DoD facilities. As with all Federal agencies, DoD is now migrating to a FIPS 201-compliant Common Access Card.

Department of Homeland Security Transportation Worker Identification Credential

TWIC was established by Congress through the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) and is administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Coast Guard. TWICs are tamper-resistant biometric credentials that are being issued to workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of ports, vessels, outer continental shelf facilities and all credentialed merchant mariners. Longshoremen, truckers, port employees and others are required to obtain a TWIC. As of February 2012, over 2 million individuals have enrolled in the TWIC program and over 1.9 million have received and activated a TWIC card.

DHS First Responder Authentication Credential (FRAC)

The Office of National Capital Region Coordination coordinated a major initiative to develop a smart identity card system (the First Responder Authentication Credential) for emergency responders. These smart cards would allow first responders from across the region the ability to quickly and easily access government buildings and reservations in the event of a terrorist attack or other disaster. The initiative is designed to remedy access problems such as those encountered by state and local emergency officials responding to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

The Smart Card Alliance Identity Council and Access Control Council developed a white paper, Emergency Response Official Credentials: An Approach to Attain Trust in Credentials across Multiple Jurisdictions for Disaster Response and Recovery, after discussion with DHS personnel to understand the complexities of trusting identity credentials at disaster response and recovery scenes. The white paper describes the benefits of using FIPS 201-based smart cards for ERO credentials and presents credential use cases that support both emergency response and daily use.

U.S. ePassport

The Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, in cooperation with its partners at the United States Government Printing Office and the Department of Homeland Security, is issuing the ePassport – a new version of the United States passport that contains an embedded contactless smart card chip. The chip is used to store biographic data on the passport; once unlocked, the data can be displayed on a screen at passport control. The new technology enhances the security of the passport and facilitates the movement of travelers at ports of entry.

The ePassport has been designed to comply with the specifications of the ICAO, Document 9303, Part I and its technical reports and annexes relating to advanced storage media for use in passports. The Smart Card Alliance Identity Council ePassport FAQ answers common questions about how the ePassport works and what technology is used to protect an ePassport holder’s personal information.

Additional information on U.S. government identity management initiatives can be found at the IDmanagement.gov web site. The Smart Card Alliance annual Smart Cards in Government conference includes briefings from many government smart card program managers, with proceedings available from past conferences.

Other Government Smart Card Resources