Defense gets more help developing wireless ID readers

Subcontractor will supply bridges to handheld computers that will scan access cards at military installations.

A subcontract announced on Tuesday will help the Defense Manpower Data Center in its efforts to equip Defense Department installations worldwide with wireless technology that recognizes identification cards that 4 million military personnel and government contractors use.

Comment on this article in The Forum.Fortress Technologies won the subcontract to supply wireless bridges that will assist in reading standard Defense Common Access Cards. Janet Kumpu, president of Fortress, said the ES520 bridge will use software that complies with the Federal Information Processing 140-2 standard to encrypt communications to wireless handheld computers that will scan the cards. Kumpu said her company also will provide the secure software the handheld computers will use.

Fortress will be assisting Telos Corp., which won a $582 million prime contract for the project in May. Lisa Kimball, vice president of the Defense Manpower Data Center operations for Telos, said hypothetically, Fortress could end up delivering tens of thousand of its wireless bridges to Telos. The value of the bridges could be "in the millions of dollars," she said.

While Kimball could not estimate the number of Defense installations that would get wireless readers, she did say 2,500 installations where CAC cards are used would receive them, along with thousands of other installations. Kumpu estimated that every entry point, such as a gate on a base, would require at least one wireless bridge.

The wireless readers will sustain an effort to provide ID cards containing biometric identifiers such as fingerprints to non-Defense personnel who need access to military installations, Kimball said. They also will support the Noncombatant Evacuation Operations Tracking System, which uses bar-coded wrist bands to track people evacuated from combat zones.

Kimball said one of the challenges of developing the wireless system for the Defense Manpower Data Center was creating software lean enough to fit on a handheld computer. But Fortress was able to come up with a solution, she said, and the company now is interested in leveraging the result by offering it as an alternative to software developed by Juniper Networks.