Army Futures Command is working on a wearable identity token that will replace the Common Access Card (CAC) for connecting soldier laptops and other handheld devices to the service's future tactical network.
Since 2001, U.S. military personnel have relied on the CAC for network and system access control, but CAC cards are not operationally suited for use in contested, enemy-controlled areas, according to a recent Army press release.
As a solution, Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), which falls under Army Futures Command, is exploring technologies to give soldiers secure and simple ways to "identify, authenticate and be authorized access to Army networks, operating systems, servers, laptops, applications, web services, radios, weapon systems and handheld devices," the release states. "The tokens are wireless, lightweight, flexible and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier's pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit."
CCDC officials envision that soldiers wearing these tokens would be recognized when they approach a system, but would still be required to enter a PIN to login, according to the release. It adds that soldiers would be automatically logged out when they walk away from the system.
"Soldiers should not have to take out a smartcard, insert it into a card reader and then remember to remove the card from the reader when they are done," Ogedi Okwudishu, project lead for the Tactical Identity and Access Management program, said in the release. "Contactless identity tokens are not only easy to use, they provide a significant cost savings for the Army. You can continue to add authentication capabilities without needing to redesign, or deploy new, tactical hardware to every laptop, server, handheld device or weapon system in the field."
Program officials hope to begin fielding the tokens in fiscal 2022, the release states.
"If done properly, it will make the authentication process a lot easier and a lot faster. Sgt. 1st Class David Worthington, senior enlisted advisor for the CCDC's Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) center, said in a statement. "More important ... you can track what people are doing on the network."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.