WHEN THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CALLED, it was a matter of national security. Ted Heiman could hardly believe what he was hearing. The Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) had an urgent need to implement a new, more secure I.D. badge for 4.3 million active duty service members. Two Secret Service agents had used fake military I.D. badges to enter the Pentagon and access the Attorney General's office while wearing their firearms. The Joint Chiefs stepped in and issued an order to fix this problem immediately.
Ted understood the urgency: “If they were able to enter the Pentagon, they could access any U.S. military base on the planet. The situation was unacceptable.” Ted was intrigued by the magnitude of the problem and the size of the opportunity. But this would be no small feat, he said.
The technical solution they were looking for did not exist. Their vision was far ahead of most corporate enterprises. The U.S. military needed a new way to authenticate soldiers to military bases and networks around the world, incorporating biometrics and other technologies, while making it virtually impossible to counterfeit the credential. Beyond the technology challenges, the politics between all the agencies involved in the project was staggering, including the DMDC, the National Security Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, plus the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Each had its own competing priorities.
On top of these requirements, we were told we couldn't ...