YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Although more and more troops now flash the new Common Access Card, civilians here have been slow to fall in line.

“At this point, I would say most of our civilians are outstanding, because we have not seen a lot” apply for a card, said Tech. Sgt. Mark Lucas.

The goal is to issue a “smart card” to all military members and Defense Department civilian employees and contractors with a .mil e-mail address by Oct. 1, Lucas said. He’s the customer service superintendent for the Military Personnel Flight, 374th Mission Support Squadron, at Yokota Air Base.

Oct. 1 is the DOD target date to turn on the Public Key Infrastructure — a computer system that will encrypt and digitally sign e-mail on .mil computers. The system works only with the new electronic identification card and card reader.

Logging on to one’s computer without the card still will be possible, but “you will not be able to electronically sign your e-mail,” Lucas said.

The palm-sized cards are considered “smart” because they hold electronically stored data. Troops will be able to use the chip-embedded cards to digitally sign e-mail messages, encrypt information and prove their identity when signing into secure Internet sessions.

Cards issued at Yokota, for example, hold electronic e-mail and identity certificates. In the future, the cards may also be used to gain access to secure areas and store medical data.

“Eventually, the idea behind the CAC card is to contain a little mini record on each individual, to include medical information, military personnel information,” Lucas said.

Japanese nationals assigned to Yokota with a .mil e-mail address may also apply for a smart card. They’ll continue to use a yellow pass for base access, Lucas said.

Contractors are coming in for their smart cards, but not civilians, Lucas said. And he’s not sure why.

“After we opened it up to all active duty, we transitioned into the civilian populace,” he said. “Somehow, that didn’t flow very well because we didn’t get the volume of civilians.”

Civilian employees need to present DOD form 1172-2, filled out by one’s unit and verified by civilian personnel, to receive a CAC. The units are supposed to schedule their civilian employees for an appointment with customer service to get the card.

The new cards are free to recipients but cost the government about $8 each to issue, Lucas said. The first cards were issued in Japan, South Korea and Okinawa beginning last year.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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