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Department Of Defense and National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

Mike Butler has more than a decade of experience in the identity business for the federal government. He’s now back where he started rejoining the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Manpower Data Center as deputy director of identity services. In a recent discussion with Re:ID, Butler talked about government credentialing programs, but he also shared some thoughts on issues around identity and citizens. Many of these issues are being discussed in the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and Butler says the federal government and technology providers need to find solutions. The Defense Department is going to look at mobile devices and other form factors for credentialing, but Butler says that smart cards will be the standard for federal employees and contractors for the next few years because of the investment made in infrastructure. For others who do business with the federal government, however, the smart card may not be used. “Once we move outside of those core populations, smart cards probably aren’t the answer,” Butler says. “I’m accepting the fact that a smart phone would be a great way to do this.” He says the government should work with outside providers so that federal employees, who have anchored identities that have been vetted, can have a credential that can be used in the private sector. “We’ve never really been able to get our arms around that and make it work,” he says. One of the most challenging and expensive parts of a credentialing program is the original identity vetting and the efforts required to keep it current. The federal government has been able to solve this issue so why not give employees the option to use it in other areas. “It would be a great thing to be able to transfer that anchored identity into government or non government use,” he says. The smart phone would be the perfect form factor for this type of personal use credential. “People are carrying them and there’s no real additional hardware cost … we might be able to make that work,” Butler says. Hardware cost has made this a difficult goal, Butler says. “It’s been elusive because there always seems to be this huge cost factor that goes with it,” he says. “If you could get rid of the hardware and at least mitigate the in-person vetting piece, it might make good sense for everybody.” Butler says efforts are underway, but it won’t happen overnight. “I’m hoping maybe another six to nine months,” he says. “We’re going to start seeing some of the commercial guys come in and maybe lay out some opportunities for the government to partner.” Butler’s experience gives him unique insight and he is remarkably upbeat saying, “I think this is the first time that we’ve had a chance that it may actually happen.”

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