GSA, DoD Join Liberty Alliance

Government joins effort to create an open, federated network identity standard as part of Bush administration's E-Gov initiatives.
Posted March 6, 2003

Roy Mark

The Liberty Alliance gained two major federal players Wednesday with the announcement the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) are joining the coalition of companies focused on an open-system single sign-on for Web services. A system for verifying logon identities is one of the Bush administration's 24 e-Government initiatives.

The GSA will be the managing partner for the federal government and is responsible for the development and implementation of infrastructure for common authentication services across federal systems.

Identity management tools are the foundation upon which companies can build services that allow consumers to move easily among Web sites without having to repeatedly identify themselves with a new password. This concept plays a significant role in the Web services arena envisioned by both Sun and Microsoft, as it allows private information to be securely transmitted to numerous entities without the halting delays of redundant entry.

"Governments and companies are looking at how to use the Web to improve business processes and provide consumers and constituents with better access to information," said Michael Barrett, president of the Liberty Alliance Management Board and vice president of Internet Strategy for American Express. "Identity management is central to each of these things, and identity management is becoming even more relevant as an increasing number of transactions and relationships move online."

Other government groups, on the federal as well as state and local level, are looking at how digital identity affects their own systems and processes. Some, like the DoD, are joining the Liberty Alliance as a way to participate in the discussion and solve their identity issues.

The Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), for instance, is responsible for collecting and maintaining important information for the DoD, including automated power, personnel, training and financial databases.

"We are involved in a number of projects where there is a need for secure digital identity," said Bill Boggess, chief of access and authentication division for the DMDC. "We are pleased to be a part of the Liberty Alliance's efforts to create an open, federated network identity standard that can be used across industries which will help us enhance our relationships with government entities."

The Liberty Alliance is the brainchild of Sun Microsystems as an alternative to Microsoft's .NET and Passport initiatives. The idea is to create standards for identifying users the first time they log on and then letting other sites recognize and authenticate the user.

Founding members of the Alliance are American Express, AOL Time Warner, Bell Canada, Citigroup, France Telecom, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard Company, MasterCard International, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Openwave Systems, RSA Security, Sony Corporation, Sun Microsystems, United Airlines and Vodafone.

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