My office is in the process of getting our new government IDs, mandated by Bush's Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 ("HSPD-12"). To make government "more efficient" and of course "more secure" (ever the Bush mantra), this card is to be used for identification, building entry (except our little satellite location probably won't), computer access (except it seems unlikely that the technology for that will be worked out anytime soon), and who knows what else. I did make an attempt to look at some background on why all this was happening, but bogged down in ultra-governmetese like The GSA HSPD-12 Managed Service Office (MSO) is the executive agent responsible for providing Federal agencies with interoperable identity management and credentialing solutions that provide end-to-end services.... There's more of the same if you're interested.
The cards cost each agency $100+ for each employee, plus an annual fee that I can't remember. (Multiply that by the number of U.S. government employees, and compare to the cost of the little photo-on-plastic that worked before plus whatever building security card needed for one's local office, if any. Sure hope we needed to be that much safer and more efficient!) I foresee lots of extra expenses for damaged cards--the things have magnetic strips for contact card readers and an antenna/wireless transmitter/something-or-other for non-contact readers, all sensitive to heat or damage from warping, and the card is supposed to be kept in a hard case when not in use. And you can't store it next to any other card with a magnetic strip. I'm having a hard time deciding where I can put the thing, and I at least have a nice desk job. Think of the techs we have out wading streams!
Today was the "enrollment" step. I carpooled downtown to an ID center (in one of the main Atlanta Federal Buildings) with 4 people in my section, after our information had been transmitted (they call it "sponsoring you for the ID") to the GSA contractor. One by one we went into a little room (actually a mini dining room off the building cafeteria), handed over 2 forms of ID to be ID'd for the ID, verified our social security number, had a picture taken (don't smile--this is for facial recognition), had all fingers fingerprinted individually, then the 4 fingers on each hand together, then the two thumbs together, then the two forefingers separately again on a different scanner. No retinal scan--I'm almost disappointed.
In 3 to 8 weeks everyone will need to go back to actually be given the card, at which point each person will have to pick a PIN and do other arcane rituals to complete the process. Maybe by then I will have figured out where to keep this fragile card.