Lawmakers, agencies study smart cards

Since Sept. 11, the debate about whether all American citizens should carry smart cards has reached a fever pitch.

Although many experts don't believe the idea will bear fruit in the foreseeable future due to concerns about privacy and interoperability, another plan, proposed by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Tom Davis, R-Va., may have a better chance. The 2002 Driver's License Modernization Act proposes that drivers' licenses include smart card data to help prevent identity theft through the use of such biometrics as fingerprint identification.

The idea has merit, says Lolie Kull, program manager for access control smart card implementation in the State Department's Office of Domestic Operations, Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

"It would allow different driver's license bureaus throughout the country to share data and [let the cards] be used universally to help prevent some of the issues from Sept. 11," she says. The State Department is in the process of issuing smart cards for building access, and plans to include computer access at some point as well.

While that idea wends its way through the legislative process, another idea-issuing smart cards to all federal employees-also has supporters. The project would put interoperable smart cards into the hands of all federal workers and contractors, much as the Department of Defense already is doing by issuing its Common Access Card to 4 million users.

Although the project would be difficult to get off the ground due to funding issues and ongoing interoperability concerns, experts say it's a good idea and may eventually come to fruition.

David Temoshock, director of identity policy in GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy, predicts that a comprehensive smart card-based federal ID card may become a reality within several years.

"We have a contract vehicle in place (GSA's Smart Access Common Identification contract) and the technology is ready," he says. "We can reasonably expect a large number of agencies to join in the acquisition and deployment processes."

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