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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.

Additional information about FIPS 201 can be found on the FIPS 201 Resources page, from NIST and from the Smart Card Alliance Physical Access 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 of July 2006, DoD had issued over 10 million smart cards. 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

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) is a universal credential intended for each transportation worker requiring unescorted physical or logical access to secure areas of the nation’s transportation modes (maritime, aviation, transit, rail, and other surface modes). An initial evaluation and prototype test was conducted in 2005, with more than 4,000 TWICs issued to workers at 26 sites in 6 states.

DHS Registered Traveler Program

The DHS Registered Traveler program was designed to provide expedited security lane access to pre-registered and pre-screened travelers. After successful pilots at 5 U.S. airports in 2005, additional airports are expected to rollout the program in 2006.

The Register Traveler Interoperability Consortium (RTIC) was formed by a group of airports to establish common business rules and technical standards to create a permanent, interoperable and vendor-neutral Registered Traveler (RT) Program which will bring passenger screening consistency and improved security procedures to air travelers in the United States.

DHS First Responders Access Credential (FRAC) pilot program

The Office of National Capital Region Coordination is coordinating a major initiative to develop a smart identity card system (the First Responder Authentication Card) 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.

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 now issuing 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 new 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.

Additional information on U.S. government smart card programs can be found at the GSA smart card 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