Naval Station Norfolk, Va., is conducting a pilot program to scan 100 percent of common access cards and Teslin cards to prepare for automated vehicle gates in fiscal 2014. (MCC Leah Stiles / Navy)
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Wait times to get on base will get worse before they get better.
That's the message from Navy officials preparing the service for 100 percent ID scans — a policy that should be implemented at every base by fiscal 2014.
The latest step is a pilot program, already underway at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
Officials with Navy Installations Command said the scanning eventually will speed up the process — but not anytime soon.
During the Norfolk trial, the scanning was expected to cause delays at the gates, a base news release stated, and commuters were told to allow more time to get to work.
The end goal is to perform 100 percent ID scanning, 100 percent of the time, said Pat Foughty, a public affairs specialist at Navy Installations Command. Base commanding officers will have some flexibility during the implementation phase to adjust the program if wait times become a problem, he added.
ID scanning at entrance bases will help officials make the leap to automated vehicle gates, also expected to occur in fiscal 2014, said Tony Reid, anti-terrorism program director at Navy Installations Command, who called it a "soft deadline."
"Automated gates will allow individuals to drive up [and] swipe their card, and the gates will open to allow access to the facility," Reid said. "It will reduce manpower requirements placed on security forces."
Once implemented, automatic gates should speed things up, Reid said.
The pilot program, which will end Oct. 31, operates like this: When a car pulls up to the gate for the first time in the trial, the guard scans the ID — the common access card for base personnel or Teslin card for dependents and retirees. The first scan takes about eight seconds, Reid said; subsequent scans take about two seconds.
"That two seconds doesn't sound like much, until you multiply it by 1,500 cars," Reid said. "The time piece is part of what the trial is all about: to make sure the infrastructure is supporting the process."
By comparison, a guard visually inspecting an ID and examining the photo takes about 10 to 12 seconds.
No data is stored on the hand-held device used to scan cards, Reid said. Rather, the scanner displays data it has fetched from a secure database, then deletes it after a few seconds.
Staying up to date
The scanning process also will let guards know whether a card is current — and legit.
"It lets you know that I'm still an employee with the Navy, I'm still current, my background is still good to go," said Scott Silk, the program's assistant manager. "It will allow me access to the gate, versus walking up and using a piece of plastic anyone can duplicate if they try hard enough."
This will be especially helpful in cases where an employee may have been fired but kept his card, or in cases where a dependent got divorced but retained a military ID.
The scans will help dependents stay current, too. Dependents with service members deployed to the war zone, for example, often have cards that are expired because the service member has not been able to renew them, Silk said. Identifying an expired card and fixing the problem allows dependents to avoid issues down the road, when the card may be needed for medical services or access to the commissary.
"In the past, they wouldn't know until there was a need," Silk said.
If a card is found to be invalid, there are procedures to either reissue or confiscate the card, Reid said.
People without ID cards, such as visitors, will still have access to the base but will need to go into the Pass and ID Office, Reid said. These offices are located on each base near the gate; even before the new scanning program, visitors went there to show a license or passport and get a one-day access pass to the base.
Don't worry — visitors will use a different line from the one employees are waiting in, so no sailors or staffers will get stuck in line behind a visitor.
While it is not unheard-of for visitors to simply be waved on to military bases, Foughty said issuing visitors a day pass is the policy. He could not comment on cases where that rule is not followed.
Other trials of 100 percent ID scanning have taken place at 23 installations in the San Diego metro area and at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., on a smaller scale, Reid said.
The Norfolk trial is the first large-scale pilot.
At the conclusion of the trial, feedback will be collected from major stakeholders at the base and electronic data will be analyzed, Reid said. Random people stationed at Norfolk will be asked about their experience.
"Our people are not hesitant to tell us what they think," he said. "If they get delayed too long at the front gate, they'll talk about it."
Employees can help speed the process by having their ID cards ready for the guard when they pull up to the gate, Reid said.