Policy Creates Bridge to Digital Certificates

WASHINGTON (07/13/2000) - Federal employees will soon have the policy basis for using electronic authentication technologies across agencies, and before the end of the year, they should have the technologies to support those policies.

The Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee developed the Federal Bridge Certificate Authority to provide each agency with the ability to accept digital certificates from other agencies. The committee will make its policy available through a federal policy authority group that will be in place by the end of the month, said Richard Guida, chairman of the committee, at the E-Gov conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

"The policy authority being in place will be the opening bell for agencies to develop applications to interoperate with the bridge," he said.

Five agencies have working PKI systems and at least a dozen more are using digital certificates in pilots to authenticate and encrypt their electronic transactions, so each agency must be able to accept the certificates from other agencies, Guida said. The policy governing that will be developed and enforced by the policy authority, a group of representatives from each of the agencies involved in the bridge.

The policy authority group includes the departments of Justice, Treasury, Defense and Commerce, the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget. As agencies decide to use the bridge, they will also join the policy authority, Guida said.

The PKI Steering Committee, now under the CIO Council's Enterprise Interoperability and Emerging IT Committee, successfully demonstrated the bridge in April. The committee is working on a two-node bridge that should be operational in October. The steering committee is waiting for funding in the fiscal 2001 budget to complete the full bridge, Guida said.

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