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In Major Change, Army Removes Social Security Numbers from Dog Tags

A metal embossing machine is used to make ID tags at the Soldier Readiness Processing building at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (US Army photo)
A metal embossing machine is used to make ID tags at the Soldier Readiness Processing building at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (US Army photo)

U.S. Army dog tags will no longer include soldiers’ Social Security numbers, the Army announced on Tuesday, ending a more than 40-year identification system. The tags will instead display the 10-digit Defense Department identification number currently included on Pentagon ID cards, and will be issued to soldiers on an as-needed basis, with those deploying getting priority, service officials said in a press release. "This change is not something where Soldiers need to run out and get new tags made," Michael Klemowski, the soldiers programs branch chief at U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said in the release. "We are focusing first on the personnel who are going to deploy. If a Soldier is going to deploy, they are the first ones that need to have the new ID tags." The change was first published in Army Pamphlet 600-8-14 on Nov. 30, officials said.  The switch is being done in an effort to reduce the use of Social Security numbers and curb identity theft, they said. "I think removing the social will help," Klemowski said. "If you find a pair of lost ID tags you can pretty much do anything with that person's identity because you now have their blood type, their religion, you have their social, and you have their name. The only thing missing is their birth date and you can usually get that by Googling a person." The Defense Department in 2007 announced plans to move away from using Social Security numbers. The Pentagon in 2009 began removing the number from military ID cards. Social Security numbers, however, continue to be used throughout the Army and military, including in the Defense Eligibility and Enrollment system, or DEERS, to identify service members and their dependents.  It appears that the Army is the only service thus far to make the dog tag change.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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