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Smartcard Employee Identification and Access Cards

Photo of a man using a security card to enter a door.

By 2009 all Forest Service access control systems must comply with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), which requires a common identification standard for Federal employees and contractors. By 2008, all Forest Service employees and long-term contractors will be issued Federal Government standard smartcard identification and access control cards. Within USDA, these cards are known as "LincPass" in honor of President Abraham Lincoln, who created the UDSA.

Fingerprint and background checks must be completed before the new cards are issued to employees. New background checks may need to be completed for some current employees. The new card will be used both for physical and computer system access. It will have a programmable chip with both contact and wireless interfaces, and will support four levels of security. It will use cryptographic tools for higher levels of security and will contain an electronic photo and biometric (fingerprint) data to verify identity. A printed photo will appear on the card. The cards also can include a magnetic stripe and a bar code.

The physical specifications for the HSPD-12 standard are outlined in National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-73.

A separate document, National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-76, has biometric data specifications for HSPD-12 personal identification verification cards. It specifies technical acquisition and formatting requirements for biometric credentials.

To ease the transition to this new Government wide security system, the Federal Identification Credentialing Committee has prepared a 200+ page Federal Identity Management Handbook for agencies. It includes a template for agency compliance plans and a sample personal identity verification request form.

More information on HSPD-12 security requirements are available at http://hspd12.usda.gov, http://lincpass.usda.gov (available only to USDA employees), an article in the USDA News, and in the USDA Integrated Physical Security Standards & Procedures Handbook (Web site available only to USDA employees). See chapter I—Physical Security, Part III—Issuing and Controlling Identification Badges (starting on page 13).