Scott Price

A number of security and smart card vendors have begun to tout products as crucial components of an HSPD-12 solution. See the sidebar in this column. In fact, the market for integrating physical and logical access security across federal agencies is so large that even analysts are reluctant to put a dollar value on it.

Smart card vendors, identity management systems providers, hardware manufacturers and software developers are all competing for the attention of government managers, who now find themselves sorting through a mass of vendor and product data to find the optimal, integrated and HSPD-12 compliant solution.

Dual benefit

Consolidating logical and physical security controls into a single, card-connected system as HSDP-12 intends will produce many benefits for federal agencies, contractor firms and even corporate operations. Taking advantage of card-connected technology will reduce security costs by 40 to 60 percent over traditional approaches – all while enabling an agency to control a greater percentage of its access points. A single system also eliminates the costs of installing and wiring traditional access points, as well as the considerable expense of traditional architectures and systems for access control at remote locations. It should now be much more affordable for agencies to expand the number of locations and systems that are electronically secured.

Agencies can also benefit from using a single interface to control both wired and card-connected access points – allowing administrators to manage a large number of users and locations more efficiently. Each card, or smart credential, securely carries the roles and privileges of the individual from wired to standalone access points, creating a card-connected environment. In this way, within the access control system, cardholders become an extension of the physical access network, and their cards carry information to and from the readers. By following this model, security is increased significantly at a fraction of the normal cost. For example, if an employee leaves the agency, rather than replace door locks and wiring (at a cost of $5,000 each, and time delays), the card permissions can be immediately revoked and the employee can no longer access the facility or information networks.

Finding right partner

So how does an agency or private sector firm determine the correct combination of technologies to meet deadlines and control costs? Systems integrators who align the latest technologies with user requirements and federal standards – and afford maximum interoperability across similar enterprises – represent a logical partner in this effort. These integrators offer established viable business relationships with product vendors of all types, and have experience in both specific technologies, and in the business of customer service and engineering support.

As with any true partner, the right integrator will provide the right solution to meet for HSPD-12 compliance. From cocktail napkin sketches to prototype and deployment to lifecycle maintenance, integrators should tailor credential technology systems, and ensure that both present and future agency needs are met with minimal cost and infrastructure impact.

Agencies can succeed in meeting the challenge of implementing an HSPD-12 solution. Understanding the true benefits of card-controlled strategies and working with partners who focus on the big picture are smart places to begin.

Challenging Background

On Aug. 27, 2004, President George Bush signed Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). The directive set into motion an aggressive timeline for government departments and agencies to develop and implement a mandatory, government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Early in 2005, the National Institute for Standards & Technology further defined the requirements for HSPD-12 compliant solutions by outlining the required administrative procedures and technical specifications that agencies should follow to meet the standards.