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Since launching the HSPD-12 (Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, Policy for a Common Identification Standard for Federal Employees and Contractors) secure credentialing program in 2004, millions of smart cards have been issued to U.S. Government employees, military personnel and contractors. As a result, the government has streamlined and standardized the process used to vet employees and process their identities and credentials, and has defined and implemented a standardized, single credential to grant access to physical and logical security applications.
Government employees across all federal agencies now are required to use a single, secure photo ID badge to authenticate themselves, gain access to doors, gates and portals at government buildings, carry biometric and other information in a secure manner, log on to their computers and mobile devices, digitally sign emails and encrypt disks, files and emails.
With this U.S. Government initiative, for the first time, standards were applied to all elements of the identity, credential and access management ecosystem of an organization. Developed by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), the Federal Information Processing Standard 201 (FIPS 201) governs the way in which federal employees provide their identities, and the workflows associated with capturing personnel data, processing credential requests, producing the credential and getting it to the employee are strictly defined. Following the FIPS 201-mandated process provides a high level of trust in the credential, which allows it to be accepted across different agencies, and to perform more functions than a typical, locally-issued proximity credential could be trusted with. These credentials are commonly referred to as PIV (Personal Identity Verification) cards. As of today, millions of PIV cards have been issued to federal workers, including both military and non-military government employees and contractors.
To produce the high volumes of smart cards the government requires for its PIV credentials, a number of agencies, including the GSA (U.S General Services Administration), established sophisticated identity and smart card management systems that not only print visually secure ID badges, but also encode the smart card chips with agency- and personnel-specific data, biometric information, encryption keys and digital certificates.