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New cards may make user IDs, passwords obsolete

Standard identification cards could be used to log on to computers and other services, GSA official says.

The hodgepodge of user names and passwords that federal employees must memorize to access computers and other services may become obsolete thanks to new governmentwide identification card requirements, a federal official said Thursday.

David Temoshok, director of the General Services Administration's Identity Policy and Management office, said the high-tech ID cards required for all federal employees and designated contractors under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 could simplify login procedures. The mandate requires agencies to distribute the new cards to all employees and contractors by October 2008. Temoshok made the comments at the Homeland Defense Journal Conference on credentialing and identity assurance.

"You log on to your computer with your user ID and password. You log on to Web sites with a user ID and password. You log on to your laptop with a user ID and password," Temoshok said. "Gee, we have got lots of user IDs and passwords. It is the vision that those existing authentication systems, which are typically user ID and password, will use different technologies."

Temoshok said the cards will verify employees' identities electronically at building entrances and on computers. Agencies will have to purchase card readers that meet the technical requirements of HSPD 12. But in the end, they could save money since they will no longer have to manage the ID and password system, he said.

"Agencies ought to be able to take advantage of the [identity management] tool that they're implementing," Temoshok said. "That's all part of the infrastructure that we're enabling the government to put in place."

Before employees use the new ID cards, agencies first must verify the recipients' identities and have complete background investigations on file. This process has sparked concerns among groups of federal employees.

GSA is launching about 400 enrollment sites nationwide for the 42 agencies that have signed up for its shared service offering. Agencies that will receive their cards through GSA include the Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Energy and Treasury departments, the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Communications Commission.

Twenty-five smaller agencies had signed up with the Interior Department's National Business Center for help fulfilling the mandate, but the department has since discontinued the program because of cost considerations and will consider using GSA as a shared service provider.

The State Department is providing new identity cards to agencies that work internationally and the Defense Department is serving the military's needs. Twelve agencies have decided to build their own ID card infrastructure, including NASA, which has concerns about placing employee data on outsourced systems.

Other agencies that are implementing the system on their own include the Homeland Security, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Education and Labor departments, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Social Security Administration.