May I see your ID, please?

Scott Price, vice president of homeland security and civilian solutions for General Dynamics Corp.

Rick Steele

Next time there is a major emergency in Arlington
County, Va., firefighters, police and emergency medical
workers will be flashing a new, high-tech identity card
to quickly verify their identity and gain access to the
disaster site.

The county is working with
the state of Virginia and the
Homeland Security Department
and announced March 13 that
it is the first county in the
nation to issue the First
Responder Authentication
Credential, a biometric smart
card modeled after the federal
standard for personal-identification cards. About
1,400 of the cards have been issued and distributed
in Arlington to date.

The card is being used initially just for physical
access. "When the first responders arrive at an incident
scene, there will be a long line for obtaining
entry, and a short line. We hope this will put them
in the short line," said Michael McAllister, state
security director at the Virginia Department of

The card will establish identity of the first responders
at the incident scene and confirm their qualifications
and expertise, so they can be quickly dispatched
to the appropriate task.

DHS has been piloting the ID cards for thousands
of first responders in the National Capital Region,
which is composed of Washington and its suburbs in
Virginia and Maryland, including Arlington County. The
program was tested in the Winter Fox disaster exercise
in 2006.

Tom Lockwood, formerly the department's coordinator
of National-Capital Region initiatives, was named
senior adviser for credentialing interoperability at the
department's Screening Coordination Office April 4.

DHS and the capital region jurisdictions want interoperability
among the ID cards so
that ? in a major emergency ? a
volunteer firefighter from Virginia or
Maryland can be admitted to a disaster
site in the District of
Columbia, and vice versa. But government
and industry executives
involved in the project say there
have been concerns about how to
establish, pay for and operate the
federated identity management that would be needed
to maintain the credentials up-to-date and provide the

"These are governance issues," said Greg Gardner,
vice president of government and homeland security
solutions at Oracle Corp. For example, the federated
system would have to quickly recognize when a first
responder anywhere in the region left the service or
moved out of the region. That type of information is
maintained separately by each county and city and
not typically shared.

Nonetheless, many companies see great opportunities
nationwide in the first-responder credentialing

"There's about 40 million emergency responders
nationwide," said Scott Price, vice president of homeland
security and civilian solutions at General
Dynamics Corp. "Credentialing is in the early stages
now, but the first responders are really seeing the benefits
of it."

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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