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The United States government is moving towards issuing single smart card identity credentials for all federal employees.

To ensure these smart IDs work across all of the government, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has established a new committee, the Federal Identity and Credential Committee (FICC), to co-ordinate smart card technology roll out programs across government departments.

Policy makers see smart cards as a key element in a more secure and more efficient government. The departments of Defense, Interior, State and Treasury have between them issued approximately 3.5 million smart ID cards to date to strengthen security and add new capabilities including identity verification and secure network access. It's hoped that new policies and maturing standards would broaden the use of smart cards in government.

FICC will build on the existing implementations as well as the newly released version 2.1 of the Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

"In the future we hope to have a full implementation of an interoperable smart card for all employees of the federal government," said Lolie Kull, senior security specialist for the US Department of State and chair of the Interagency Interoperability Task Force.

"The OMB defines policy, and there is now a clear path to establish workable interoperability. FICC is the new kid on the block, but it is the kid with the most power," she added.

Speakers at the Smart Card Alliance's Government Conference and Expo conference last week reinforced the need for interoperability and were enthusiastic about the role of the new FICC organisation.

"We need to eliminate the need to carry around multiple cards," said Mary Dixon, director of the Access Card Office of the Department of Defense. ®

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