Only 3 percent of feds, contractors have received new ID cards

Federal agencies still have a long way to go to meet the Bush administration's 2008 deadline for issuing new credentials.

The Office of Management and Budget released a report on Thursday indicating that 97 percent of employees and contractors have yet to receive their new identification badges, placing the federal government far behind the ability to meet a deadline to have the new high-tech ID cards in the hands of all employees by October, the Bush administration reported.

President Bush called for the new cards when he issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 in 2004, requiring a common identification standard for federal employees and contractors. Employees will use the cards, which include biometrics and other high-tech features, to access federal buildings and to log on to government computers.

OMB set a deadline of Oct. 27, 2007, for agencies to have completed background checks of employees and contractors who had worked for less than 15 years for the federal government, but most missed that deadline. They are now working hard to meet the Oct. 27, 2008, deadline to replace the flash badges for all employees and contractors.

Agencies had blamed technical challenges to issuing the cards. For example, agencies had to develop solutions for integrating the IDs with support systems that maintain the data and provide an interface with enrollment and issuance functions. But OMB said that agencies no longer can say technical challenges are preventing them from issuing the new cards. "Agencies can't use those excuses anymore," said Karen Evans, administrator of the Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology at OMB, the top IT position in the administration.

In total, agencies must conduct background checks and issue new IDs to 4.3 million employees and 1.2 million contractors. So far, 59 percent of employees and 42 percent of contractors have completed the background checks, OMB reported, and 143,260 employees and 36,102 contractors have been issued cards.

These numbers are in sharp contrast to those reported in October 2007, when OMB reported that a total of 1.9 million federal employees and 591,358 contractors required credentials, and 97 percent of federal employees and 79 percent of contractors had completed the required background checks.

OMB attributed the increase to poor data on the number of government workers. "From my understanding, we originally had more issues with data quality," an OMB spokeswoman said. "We have better and more complete data now than we had previously."

In a report released in February 2008, the Government Accountability Office faulted OMB for moving too slowly in following the HSPD-12 directive. OMB had emphasized issuing cards, rather than focusing on implementing the full capabilities of the cards, and had not provided guidance to agencies on how to manage the substantial investment needed for implementation, GAO concluded.

"We're highlighting [to agencies] that here are the milestones, [and] here's what you said you are going to accomplish. You're not quite going to make it there at your current rate," Evans said. "We're working through that on a case-by-case basis. [Before] we knew we had technical shortcomings. . . . But those issues have all been addressed, so they can't use those excuses anymore."

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