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Military CAC : The United States Department of Defense DoD Common Access Card

​​​​​​​​​​​A smart move to next-generation identity credentials

United States Department of Defense DoD Common Access Card (CAC)

With 826,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists​, 7​​​​42,000 civilian personnel and more than 1.3​million men and women on active duty as of 2016, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) is the United States’ single largest employer. Established under the National Security Act of 1947, DoD coordinates and supervises all agencies and functions of government relating directly to national security and the military.

Data integrity is of paramount importance given the highly sensitive nature of information handled by DoD employees and contractors on a daily basis.

By introducing strong employee authentication measures with secure card certificates and PIN code, DoD has led the way in digital security for the Federal government. The military CAC program has issued over 20 million smart identity badges to date.

At any one time, the ubiquitous Common Access Card is being used by 4.5 million personnel: 

  • Active-duty armed forces 
  • National Guard, Reserves 
  • DoD civil servants 
  • Select contractor workforce​

As an accredited provider of smart cards to the DoD, Gemalto is proud to contribute to this initiative.

For more details and frenquently asked questions on the military CAC card, please visit the DOD ID card reference center.

These secure mechanisms have been benefiting national ID card​ shemes around the world as well​.

What information is on a military CAC card?​

​The microprocessor has a memory of 1​​44KB of data and includes PKI certificates that allow holders to digitally sign documents with a PIN code, but also encrypt/decrypt emails, and securely connect to online networks.

It also stores two digital fingerprints, the holder's portrait, a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) certificate, organizational affiliation, agency, department, expiration date.

The bar code stores the name, date of birth, personnel category,  pay category, benefits information, organizational affiliation and pay grade.​

As of June 2011, the Social Security Number (SSN) has been replaced by the DoD Identification Number. 

Cac card: essential to every aspect of life at DoD 

Since its implementation, the CAC card has significantly expedited administrative processing. 

The card provides all necessary information in a single use, preventing countless hours of busywork, such as filling out forms by hand. Flight manifest tracking, weapons issuance and deployment processing can be completed in minutes rather than hours, meaning that employees and contractors spend less time waiting in line. 

“When I go to the gym, the only identification I take is my CAC”​

But the militarycac is not just a timesaver

With over 1.5 million CAC transactions logged daily, this fully scalable solution has quickly become a vital part of everything DoD employees and contractors do throughout their workday. 

Thre's more.

It has streamlined many business practices and processes, making DoD operations more efficient and secure than ever. 

As a reminder, the Department maintains 561,975 facilities at 4,800 sites on 25 million acres. 

In addition to ensuring fail-safe physical and logical security, the CAC card: 

  • Enables exact headcounts through computerized building access files 
  • Improves accountability for food service and recruit functions 
  • Provides reliable authentication for healthcare and benefits processing 
  • Has served in lieu of a visa for deployment to Iraq 
  • Is recognized as an identification card under the Geneva Conventions

​The future of US military ID

Web magazine fedscoop​ reported on 7 February 2019 that the DOD is working with a Brooklyn-based artificial intelligence startup to replace the military CAC and build better identity, credentialing and access management (ICAM) through “deep-learning based” AI.

DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy however said in September 2018 that the CAC card is still a key component of the DOD security and will remain the “principle authenticator for the foreseeable future.”

DOD also said the National Institute of Standards and Technology's new SP 800-63 digital identity guidelines​ are central to normalizing identity management.

So, stay tuned for the outcome of this pilot.

​And​ in the meantime ....don't leave your desk without it!​