By Maj. Sheldon SmithAugust 1, 2008
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- U.S. Army Materiel Command's Synchronized Pre-deployment and Operational Tracker - or SPOT - may soon make access for contractors to American installations easier.
The pilot program will utilize SPOT to identify and track all contractors deploying in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom through a Common Access Card intended specifically for contractors.
"We will soon be able to identify and track government contractors who support the force," said Niels Biamon, AMC's deputy G-3 for current operations. "These contractors will be identified by their companies prior to deployment, and we will have visibility of their location on the battlefield as well as their capabilities and status."
SPOT is being developed as a scalable, web-based system. Its roots date back to November 2002 when then AMC commander, Gen. Paul Kern and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Claude M. Bolton, realized a need for contractor accountability. A memorandum of understanding was later signed giving AMC the task of contractor accountability.
"In anticipation of a contractor surge to support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, SPOT was developed as a solution with enterprise implications to track contract workers supporting DOD, the State Department and potentially other agencies supporting counter-terrorism world-wide," said Lt. Col. Richard Faulkner, program manager for SPOT and the Joint Asset Movement Management System.
If successful, the SPOT system will enable private industry to provide government contractors with a certified commercial equivalent to the CAC, which will be encoded with credentials that are accepted as a trusted basis for access to facilities and even computer networks.
According to Biamon, SPOT will help streamline the deployment process for contractors while minimizing effort on the part of the government.
"Getting CAC cards for deploying contractors has been a cumbersome and time consuming process," said Biamon. "The SPOT system will have access to all authoritative information residing in corporate finance and personnel databases. We'll be able to get existing certified credentials from provider companies."
"It's more efficient for private industry to do contractor badging - we just have to insure the badging is adequate," said Biamon.
Contractors will be able to use their cards upon arrival to and departure from theater, as well as with in-theater card scanners at entry points to installations, facilities and other areas for which they've been granted access.
"A contractor can go to work as soon as he's boots on the ground," said Faulkner.
The SPOT system will take advantage of external certificate authorities.
"CAs are lists of trusted certificates that can be accepted or rejected locally depending on the contractor's need for access," said Faulkner. "We won't have to spend additional time vetting the contractors because it will already be done."
AMC will verify certified contractor credentials using a DOD-compliant network managed by the Federation For Identity And Cross-Credentialing Identification Systems, or "FiXs".
FiXs is the only network authorized to interoperate with DOD for identity cross-credentialing and authentication and will serve as a counterpart to the Defense Manpower Data Center's defense cross-credentialing systems.
FiXs also certifies and accredits credential issuers.
"FiXs certified credentials provide a common, acceptable token that can be authenticated," said Rick Miller, AMC's deputy provost marshal. "It's based on common agreed-upon standards that enhance security via authentication, standardize operations, and reduce costs."
The FiXs network interfaces with the AMC SPOT system. As part of the pilot program, AMC will issue as many as 3,000 FiXs certified credentials to contractors who interact with AMC or are deployed to the U.S. Army Central Command area of responsibility.
Additionally, AMC will install a limited number of authentication stations at various locations, including gates and other designated collection points at Fort Belvoir.
"Officials will evaluate how well FiXs certified certificates are authenticated across a secure network against federated bodies of stored data, and monitor system use along with the security profile. The evaluation and processing of findings should take about 90 days," Faulkner said.
Companies interested in participating in the SPOT pilot program can contact Lt. Col. Faulkner at firstname.lastname@example.org.