The Common Access Card (CAC) is a smart card issued by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to uniformed service members, civilian employees, and eligible contractors. The CAC serves as a form of identification and enables access to various DoD facilities, computer networks, and systems. It contains embedded data and cryptographic keys that enhance security and enable secure access to sensitive information. This guide will provide an overview of the Common Access Card, how to use it, what to do if you lose it, and how to renew it. The Common Access Card is a multifunctional smart card that combines various identification and authentication capabilities into a single card. It is designed to enhance security, streamline access control, and provide a standardized identification process across the Department of Defense. The CAC contains:
- The cardholder’s personal information.
- A photo.
- A unique identification number.
- Electronic certificates for secure digital signatures and encryption.
How to Use a Common Access Card (CAC)?
- To use the CAC for physical access to DoD facilities, you must present the card to the access control point or swipe it through a card reader. The card reader will validate the embedded information and grant or deny access based on your authorization level.
- For computer network and system access, insert your CAC into a card reader attached to your computer. The computer will prompt you to enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Once authenticated, you can access authorized resources and networks. Remember to log out and remove the card when not in use.
- The CAC allows you to digitally sign emails and documents, ensuring their authenticity and integrity. Additionally, it enables secure encryption for sensitive communications.
What to Do If You Lose Your Common Access Card?
Losing your Common Access Card can be concerning, as it may pose security risks if accessed by unauthorized individuals. If you lose your CAC, take the following steps:
- Report the Loss: Immediately report the loss to your unit security officer or the appropriate authority. They will help you initiate the process of canceling the lost card to prevent unauthorized use.
- Monitor for Unauthorized Activity: Keep a close eye on your financial and personal accounts for any signs of suspicious activity. While the CAC itself does not contain financial data, it’s essential to remain vigilant.
- Request a New CAC: Contact your Personnel Office or the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) office to request a new CAC. They will guide you through the necessary steps for replacement.
How to Renew Your Common Access Card?
Common Access Cards have an expiration date, typically indicated on the card itself. To renew your CAC, follow these steps:
- Monitor the expiration date on your CAC to ensure you initiate the renewal process before it expires. Expired cards may cause interruptions in your access to facilities and systems.
- Contact your local Personnel Office or DEERS office to schedule an appointment for card renewal. Plan ahead, as appointments may have wait times.
- When going for the renewal appointment, ensure you have the necessary documents, such as a valid government-issued photo ID and any additional paperwork required by your unit.
- Arrive at the designated renewal site at the scheduled time. The staff will guide you through the renewal process, which typically includes verifying your identity and updating your information.
- During the renewal process, your photograph will be updated, and in some cases, fingerprinting may be required to verify your identity.
- Once you receive the new CAC, activate it by setting a new Personal Identification Number (PIN). Avoid using easily guessable PINs and protect your CAC as you would any sensitive document.
The Common Access Card (CAC) is an essential tool for military personnel, DoD employees, and eligible contractors, providing secure identification and access to various resources. By understanding how to use the CAC, reporting a lost card, and renewing it when necessary, cardholders can ensure they have continuous access to critical facilities and systems while maintaining security and protecting sensitive information. Remember, the CAC is a powerful tool, and its security features should always be safeguarded. Treat it with the utmost care and report any potential security breaches immediately. With proper care and vigilance, the CAC will continue to serve as a valuable asset in securing sensitive DoD operations and information.