The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have chosen a smart-card authentication product from ActivIdentity as the U.S. government faces a deadline for using new identity cards.The DoD\u2019s U.S. Army and Air Force have chosen ActivIdentity\u2019s desktop software package ActivClient 6.0 to authenticate holders of current and next-generation DoD smart cards as they log into DoD computers and networks, ActivIdentity announced Tuesday. The military branches will use ActivClient to comply with U.S. President George Bush\u2019s Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), which requires U.S. agencies to begin issuing biometric-based smart cards by Friday.ActivIdentity didn\u2019t disclose the value of the DoD contract, but company officials said the five-year agreement was awarded through the U.S. Government Services Administration in concert with systems integrator Electronic Data Systems.\u00a0The contract will provide smart-card access to all of the DoD\u2019s 3.5 million military members and contractors, ActivIdentity said.ActivIdentity has worked with the DoD on smart-card deployments for about five years, but the new contract shows the company\u2019s continued leadership in the evolution of smart cards, said Jason Hart, ActivIdentity\u2019s chief executive officer. Friday\u2019s deadline is just the start of an evolution of smart-card use in government, Hart said. The deadline requires agencies simply to begin issuing biometric smart cards, but the cards have potential beyond being used for physical access to buildings and access to computers, he said. Eventually, agencies may look at using the smart cards to encrypt e-mail and information stored on computers, to verify the identity of e-mail senders, even to make purchases or access government health benefits, he predicted."It\u2019s the next two years where you\u2019re going to see the bulk of work being done," he said.The TSA contract also uses ActivClient 6.0 to redesign and develop smart-card ID badges for security workers, including airport screeners. The contract, through systems integrator Apptis, calls for new smart ID cards for all of approximately 70,000 TSA employees and contractors, ActivIdentity said.ActivIdentity\u2019s encrypted card upgrade capabilities, available to be done in the background on users\u2019 PCs, and its ability to issue cards while workers wait appealed to the TSA, Hart said. "They can upgrade the card in the field," he said.Hart predicted the U.S. government\u2019s move to biometric smart cards will spur the use of smart cards in private industry as well. Smart cards that combine credit or debit card functions, computer encryption, e-mail user authentication and other functions will become common in the next five years or so, he predicted.-Grant Gross, IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.