Back in 2004, President George W. Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). One of the federal government’s many attempts to tighten security after 9/11, HSPD-12 aimed to eliminate “wide variations in the quality and security of identification used to gain access to secure facilities where there is potential for terrorist attacks” and directed the creation of a standard ID card to be used by federal government employees and contractors for access to both federal buildings and federal computer networks.

The secure ID card initiative has made progress since then, with, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), 4.5 million of 5.7 million federal employees and contractors having biometrics and data-encoded HSPD-12-compliant “smart” cards as of December 2010, but those cards are not yet being used to their full technological potential.

However, on Feb. 3, OMB made an important move toward achieving that potential when it issued a memo asserting that, “With the majority of the federal workforce now in possession of the credentials, agencies are in a position to aggressively step up their efforts to use the electronic capabilities of the credentials.” It outlined a five-point plan intended to “expedite the Executive Branch’s full use of the credentials for access to federal facilities and information systems.” For the Security Industry Association, which has long backed the deployment of standardized secure ID cards for government personnel, this was a welcome development.

SIA has been intimately involved in the HSPD-12 implementation process. The SIA Standards Department in July 2010 produced “Applying OSIPS to FICAM.” This white paper highlighted the role that standards developed by SIA had in the “Federal Identity, Credentialing and Access Management (FICAM) Roadmap and Implementation Guidance” that was released by the federal government in November 2009 in response to HSPD-12.

For several years, people have carried smart cards that were never asked to do anything more than “dumb” cards could do. The technology embedded in them has largely been unused, and the IDs have often functioned only as a flash pass – a picture that could be checked by a guard. The OMB memo, though, moves federal agencies closer to asking smart cards the difficult questions that only they can answer, like, “Is this person who he or she claims to be?” SIA is eager to work with the federal government to ensure that the final stages of HSPD-12 implementation go smoothly and federal facilities and networks, as a result, are made more secure.  

Ronald L. Hawkins ( is communications manager for the Security Industry Association (