First responder communications, identifications showcased during FEMA demonstration

One of the most difficult challenges facing national security officials at every level of government is identification. Although government agencies have struggled to fulfill Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), the presidential mandate establishing common identification requirements for federal executive branch employees and contractors, a demonstration of common identification requirements for federal, state and local agencies and contractors was on display last week.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s, Office of National Capital Region Coordination held its “Spring Ahead 2009” emergency response demonstrations in twenty locations across the United States May 18 through 22. Federal, state and local agencies and private-sector organizations, preparing to maintain continuity of government operations in the event of a disaster, simultaneously authenticated and uploaded digital certificates from more than thirty organizations.

During the demonstrations, eight disaster scenarios were staged to test relocation plans of essential government personnel from city centers to secure locations, using mobile communications and issuing just-in-time credentials. Key among the technologies being demonstrated were mobile communications and identity credentialing services provided by Verizon Business and other industry leaders.

As part of their mobile communications vehicles, Verizon Business supplied advanced voice, satellite nad Internet connections to first responders. In addition, Verizon Business worked with other industry partners to provide credentials, allowing emergency response officials to electronically confirm identities of essential government personnel.

These multi-jurisdictional electronic validation demonstrations leveraged Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 201 credentials, along with First Responder Authentication Credentials (FRAC), Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) and the U.S. Department of Defense Common Access Cards (CAC).

“In the event of a disaster, making sure that the government and emergency response officials remain up and running is essential,” said Blair Crump, group president of worldwide sales for Verizon Business. “With our advanced communications and security services, delivered from our state-of-the-art mobile command centers, Verizon Business can respond immediately to help provide on-site support for the identification and relocation of key government employees.”

Also involved with the tests were secure identity credentialing companies, Entrust, Salamander Technologies, Probaris Inc. and CoreStreet.

“The interoperability of seamlessly authenticating credentials from different local, state and federal agencies is a tremendous asset during times of unfortunate emergency or tragedy,” said Entrust President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Conner. Entrust worked specifically with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force to demonstrate the capabilities of the Entrust PKI and digital certificates. “Other states should look to the State of Illinois as an example of technology leadership and innovation,” Mr. Conner said.

CoreStreet CEO Chris Broderick said, “Many organizations today unfortunately take a reactive approach to emergency access management response–yet when tragedy strikes, they still need to execute an emergency plan efficiently and securely. By participating in demonstrations such as ‘Spring Ahead,’ CoreStreet is underscoring the importance of taking a proactive operational stance by investing in interoperable technology that can validate the identities and specific skill sets of emergency response officials at the onset of a disaster.”

Participants in “Spring Ahead” included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (HHS ASPR), the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA), the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS), the U.S. Park Police (USPP), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA NY/NJ), and the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council for Trauma (STRAC). Targeted States for the demonstration included Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.