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VanRoekel: Feds Should Accept 3rd-Party ID Credentials

The move will cut costs and reduce the management burden of the current online credential systems agencies use, the U.S. CIO said.

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President Obama's top IT official is urging federal agencies to use online identity credentials issued by third parties as a way to cut back on costs associated with internally managing identity credential systems.

In a memo to agencies, (PDF) U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel told them to begin accepting externally issued identity credentials "to decrease the burden on users of our systems, and reduce costs associated with managing credentials."

Currently, people interacting with the government online--including members of the public and business partners--maintain "dozens of identity credentials" issued by the feds, according to VanRoekel. Moreover, agencies maintain "duplicative" records of these credentials on their own IT systems.

[The feds are taking a new approach to fighting national security threats. Learn more: Homeland Security Revamps Cyber Arm.]

VanRoekel cited the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health as a successful example of a federal department using third-party credentials to save an estimated $2.98 million over five years. The department began accepting external credentials in June 2010, relieving itself of the burden of managing user IDs and passwords across about 50 systems, according to the memo.

Cutting costs has been top of mind for the Obama administration that, like most public-sector entities, has grappled with shrinking IT budgets. The administration has instituted a broad set of IT cost-cutting measures as part of several initiatives such as a 25-point federal IT reform plan and, most recently, the Campaign to Cut Waste.

VanRoekel is ordering agencies to identify at least one credential provider and, 90 days thereafter, begin implementing full use of that provider over the next three years. An attachment to the memo provides a list of approved companies that issue credentials according to National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines and processes maintained by the Federal Chief Information Officers Council.

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