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Pentagon access cards require fingerprint, iris images

July 16, 2015 (Photo Credit: Andy Dunaway/Air Force/Getty Images)

The Pentagon will immediately begin issuing new building access cards for non-Common Access Card users and will require iris and fingerprint images taken of each applicant.

The aim is to group individuals who go to the Pentagon into the new Pentagon Facilities Alternative Credential, or PFAC, or CAC card categories, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson told Military Times on Wednesday.

Officials plan to have all badges switched to the new access card by Labor Day, according to a release from the Pentagon's media operations office.

Crosson said that CAC card holders no longer will need another building access card, making the system more efficient.

The PFAC card looks very much like a Global Entry card, which is issued through an application process under U.S. Customs and Border Protection to frequent travelers who wish to receive expedited clearance.

To receive one, individuals will be required to have images taken of their irises and fingerprints of their index fingers, spokeswoman Jacqueline Yost said. 

The move to use biometrics to authenticate employee identity has been in the works for some time. In 2012, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency began testing the system at the Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia. DoD building pass holders in 2014 began transitioning their credentials into the PFPA's program called the Privilege Management Program to meet a government-wide identification standard for federal employees and contractors. Many CAC users at this time began their biometric applications, Crosson said.

The move to the new cards is to comply with guidelines issued within the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 and Federal Information Processing Standard 201-2 policies, Yost said. 

A pilot program is still underway to use biometrics for authenticating employee identity, she said. 

The PFAC system echoes how CAC users apply for their credentials, Crosson said. Common Access Cards take about 15 minutes to issue or renew. For the PFAC, only minutes are needed to collect the information, which is then sent to the Government Printing Office. Employees should receive their PFAC cards a few days after from the PFPA.

Applicants' information will be stored only with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency for official use; Crosson said it will not be sent to the Office of Personnel Management, which recently suffered a major hacking scandal affecting the sensitive information of 21.5 million Americans.

The current swipe badges are being phased out for the new badges, adorned with internal technology — like a chip — which activates when the holder nears an access point reader when entering the Pentagon.

PFAC users will hold the card above the readers for a few seconds, which can be found on the gates or turnstiles.

While chip readers are becoming more common in other settings such as grocery stores and shopping malls, these cards will activate only when put in front of the Pentagon reader system, Crosson said.

Under current rules, members of the media could access the Pentagon only if they visited the building at least four to eight times a month, according to the Defense Department's website. However, members of the media also have been told they should access the Pentagon at least twice within 90 days to remain active.

Crosson said it is unclear if the same conditions will apply for the PFAC card.

The Pentagon will continue to issue temporary passes for people visiting the Pentagon for a short time, Crosson said.

This story first published July 16 improperly stated retina and fingerprint scans were required.

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