GSA Studies Smart Card Value

The U.S. General Services Administration has hired a contractor to study the cost and benefits of using PKI-enabled smart cards for federal applications.

The Office of Electronic Commerce within GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy has tasked Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. with developing a model business case for using smart cards as the vehicle for public-key infrastructure technology. A draft of the report is due todA PKI-enabled smart card stores the digital certificates used to identify and authenticate a user to an application. Such hardware-based certificates are generally accepted as more secure than software-based certificates, which are normally stored on a user's hard drive or a server.

The report will detail the current use of PKI on smart cards in government and compare the cost and benefits of smart cards with other hardware and software PKI solutions, said Marion A. Royal, an agency expert in GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy.

Once the final study is published in November, Royal said he hopes it will help agencies decide if "now's the time" to invest in the smart card-based solution.

It also could help drive business to GSA's three-month-old Smart Access Common Identification contract, he said. The contract offers smart cards and services to support multiple federal applications, such as personal identification and access to buildings and computers, on a single card.

"As agencies look to that vehicle, [I] hope that this business model is something they can show to managers as justification with moving forward with smart cards," Royal said.

GSA is conducting the study for the CIO Council's Enterprise Interoperability and Emerging Information Technology Committee.

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