Military family member ID Cards will soon undergo some changes. The coming changes are a step in the right direction.
Social Security numbers will disappear from the ID cards of military family members by the end of the year, temporarily replaced by the Social Security number of the military sponsor in a half-step toward better identity-theft protection, defense officials said Thursday.
In 2009, the Defense Department will take the next step of phasing out full Social Security numbers on all ID cards for service members and civilians, replaced by just the last four digits. Using those digits, combined with other identifying information, is a common practice in the private sector.
New cards will be issued as old cards expire, defense officials said.
Officials described the ID card changes as part of a phased approach to improving identity protection for service members, civilian employees and their families. The first step was to improve security over military databases. A second step was to remove Social Security numbers from Tricare health system ID cards, defense officials said.
Getting Social Security numbers off the ID cards of family members is considered a high priority because they make up about 2.2 million of the 3.4 million people who have military-issued common access cards.
Congress has been pressing the Defense Department to move faster because of the risk of identity theft. A Social Security number, along with a name, address and a few other easily discovered facts, makes it possible to get credit in another person's name.
The House Armed Services Committee has been pushing for several years for the Pentagon to stop using Social Security numbers altogether, but it has faced resistance because the number is used in both personnel and payroll systems.
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As a means of combating identity theft, the Defense Department will issue identification cards without full Social Security numbers printed onto them, a senior official said here today.
The Defense Department cares about protecting personal information as well as increasing database security, Mary Dixon, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center based in Arlington, Va., told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters. Identity theft is a very real problem today, Dixon explained. Criminals who pilfer SSN-bearing identity cards can virtually assume someone's identity through a few computer keystrokes and clicks of a mouse, she said. TriCare, the military services' health maintenance organization, already has removed Social Security numbers from its members' identification cards, Dixon said. Plans are to remove the Social Security numbers from identification cards issued to military family members by the end of this year, Dixon said, noting that those cards still would display the sponsors' SSN, for now. Between 2009 and 2010, all department-issued identification cards will feature only the last four digits of a holder's Social Security number, she said. About 3.4 million people now have department-issued common access cards, Dixon said. Around two-thirds of those card holders are military members, and some civilians who deploy overseas, who have full Social Security numbers printed onto the back of their CACs. "You might lose that card," Dixon pointed out, noting that family members, including children, could misplace their identification cards, too. Modern information technology precludes the need to have full social security numbers printed onto employee and family member ID cards, Dixon said. "Today, all of our (computer) systems can 'talk' to each other, so we don't necessarily need to know all of that information printed on your card," she said. New identification cards will be issued as they reach their expiration dates, Dixon said.