What Local and State Entities can Learn from HSPD-12 Standards for Identification


In the aftermath of 9-11, it became clear that the federal government needed to standardize the rules for identification and credentials across the board. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) was initiated to ensure all United States government agencies are on the same page when it comes to gatekeeping - issuing and verifying acceptable credentials.

Before 9-11, several solutions existed, such as barcodes and electronic key cards. The variety of ways each of these technologies is made and managed, however, presented an enormous challenge in terms of interagency verification.

What Local and State Governments Can Learn From HSPD-12

Today, thanks to HSPD-12, Federal Government credentials are easily identified and verified. Agencies who rarely communicate with each other, such as the USDA and NASA benefit from the unified system.

By instituting HSPD-12, the federal government ensures that no one can utilize counterfeit or invalid credentials to gain access to restricted areas and data.

Why a Unified I.D. Standard Should Be Adopted

HSPD-12 is binding only for agencies operating under the federal government. However, state and local governments will benefit from adopting a similar approach. A cross-institutional set of identification rules benefits every agency, both from a security standpoint, and an operational standpoint in the event of a disaster.

When everyone, from software writers to card manufacturers, are using the same personal identity verification (PIV) criteria, all systems will follow the same standards.

Benefits of a Standardized I.D. System

Disaster relief is a critical issue for many local and state governments. Emergencies such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or even terrorist attacks can create an acute need for a unified credential system. First responders need an accurate and reliable way to quickly assess who should be granted access to a disaster area and who should be refused.

For example, one Florida county recently adopted a smart card system that utilizes one identification technology platform for all sheriff, police, and disaster relief personnel. Doing this ensures that, in the event of an emergency situation, credentials can be interoperable across all buildings and databases.

Florida is especially prone to hurricanes. In the event of a weather emergency, one of the biggest challenges that police face is knowing who should be allowed into barricaded areas and who should be kept out. Authorities can’t be expected to maintain a dynamic master list of all first responder personnel without such a unified system. A smart card that can be read on a mobile device, or laptop with database connectivity, provides significant value for officers at checkpoints.

What to Consider Before Adopting a Standardized System

A full upgrade to HSPD-12 standards can be expensive, out of reach for most local and state governments in the short term. But a gradual upgrade can save funds in the short term while moving towards a standardized system.

The first step is to consult with a trusted advisor who can audit the current systems and entities to establish a gradual standardization plan. An extensive assessment process allows your advisor to recommend a system appropriate for long-term goals.

A government that seeks to eventually upgrade to the standard of the Federal Government should migrate all personnel gradually over to a FIPS 201-style badge (Federal Information Processing Standard 201 is the technical standard necessary for complying with HSPD-12).

In some cases, the best solution is to install multi-technology card readers. These will allow existing systems to continue to work while your institution rolls out new cards one department at a time, as allowed by budgetary constraints.

Some state and local governments may have the ability to upgrade all at once, but many prefer the incremental approach due to high costs.

Local governments can also save money by using the very same systems implemented by the federal government. They can take advantage of what has been already vetted on the federal level. Moreover, if governments can utilize a General Services Administration (GSA) contract, they can save money on the implementation side as well.

Upgrading to HSPD-12 Compliance

Local and state governments are not under mandate to adopt HSPD-12, but those who do can enjoy significant benefits beyond the day-to-day I.D. validation needs for government buildings.

Currently, most local and state governments limit the use of credentials for building access, but smart card systems enable agencies to relay vital information during crises. Smart cards, moreover, can be automatically updated when credentials are nullified. They allow for real-time information sharing between various agencies, which can instantly access computerized master lists. This capability effectively maximizes security levels and boosts rescue efforts even in situations when confusion can easily reign.

Governments should consider at least incrementally adopting standardized credential systems in order to prepare for disasters and to take steps toward adopting the smarter, unified system employed at the federal level.


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