Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday is ‘RAPIDGate Day’

Photo byRick Thompson
The sign boards at all three gates are only one aspect of the extensive publicity regarding the changeover to RAPIDGate and CAC access to Pax River.
It’s six days to RAPIDGate. Starting Wednesday, July 1, the familiar blue, brown, orange or gray ‘‘NAVAIR Team” badges will no longer be accepted for access to NAS Patuxent River, Webster Field Annex or Naval Recreation Center Solomons.

The only ways to gain base access as of July 1 are Common Access Cards (CAC), the new RAPIDGate cards, and the familiar paper passes with photo ID.

‘‘July 1 is the deadline,” said said David Fullmer, Pax River’s antiterrorism officer. ‘‘The gates will not allow you to use your NAVAIR Team badge. If you do not have a CAC, RAPIDGate, military identification, or visitor pass and photo ID, you will be required to return to the Pass Office to get a visitor pass.”

He added, ‘‘I would expect lines at the Pass Office will be longer than usual on July 1 and a few days after.”

Fullmer stated, ‘‘We began processing people for RAPIDGate cards April 1, and there are many companies and employees who have gotten the cards. It’s gone well. There have been questions and the questions have been answered.”

The typical question is accessing facilities without the ‘‘Team” badge. Fullmer said, ‘‘We have worked with the tenant security offices to get their RAPIDGate and CACs encoded for access to facilities. I don’t know if some will still require the old badges for building or lab access. It’s up to the particular security officer for that tenant.”

Contractors are the ones mainly affected by the changeover, and they fall into two groups: those who have Common Access Cards and those who don’t. A contractor who has a CAC is affected only minimally. Show the CAC at security instead of the brown badge, and use the brown badge only if necessary for building or office access.

‘‘If you’re a contractor who doesn’t have a CAC, it becomes a question of whether the contracting officer or the technical officer on your contract gives you approval to get a CAC,” Fullmer said. ‘‘That person has to certify that you meet the requirements for a CAC.”

Those requirements, according to Fullmer, are ‘‘that you are on the base for six months or more throughout the year, have passed an FBI fingerprint check, and have completed a national agency check with inquiries or equivalent security investigation. Anyone who has a CAC has gone through that.”

Civilian government employees (blue badges) who have CAC cards show the CAC for base access. They are unaffected otherwise. ‘‘Blue card holders who don’t have a CAC can get one even if they don’t need NMCI (Navy Marine Corps Intranet) access,” said Fullmer. ‘‘To do that, they need to be in DEERS (Defense Eligibility and Enrollment Recording System). If you aren’t in DEERS and don’t have a CAC, you need to get in it.”

He stated, ‘‘Your agency’s human resources office can help you. They should be able to get you into DEERS and get you a CAC.”

Active and retired military identification cards will remain valid for base access. The same goes for military dependent identification cards, said Lt. Daniel Harmon, Pax River Personnel Services Activity Detachment officer in charge.

As for the issuance of new CACs during the RAPIDGate changeover, the only problem has been keeping blank CACs in stock. ‘‘Since April 1, the gates have run out of card stock four times, because the Defense Manpower Distribution Center, who actually own the machines, was issuing 500 cards at a time. They’ve since increased that to 1,000,” Harmon said.

Otherwise, ‘‘The process has been going great,” he stated. ‘‘There have been some issues with PINs and building access, but most of that has been worked out. Sometimes the issue was the mechanics of the door, or perhaps the magnetic strip was coming off the card. If that happens, they just get a new card from us.”

For those who don’t qualify for a CAC, there is RAPIDGate, which, according to Fullmer, ‘‘can be used in the same way as a CAC or blue card as a swipe-read. It’s for someone who will be on the installation for less than six months, or is not getting a security investigation.”

He continued, ‘‘RAPIDGate is for contractors who do not have or need a CAC, such as construction workers, grounds maintenance, landscapers, custodians and cafeteria workers.”

There are also changes for dependents of government employees. Fullmer said civilian dependents will get a longer-lived version of the current single-day paper badges. ‘‘If a dependent needs access for MWR functions, he or she will go to the pass office with the employee sponsor and get a paper pass good for 90 days. It will be the same as the one-day passes: a vehicle pass taped to the inside of the windshield and a paper identification in a plastic holder. The paper badge and a photo ID are required for base access.” After 90 days, they have to repeat the process for another 90-day badge.

There won’t be much sympathy for those who show up Wednesday without a CAC, military identification or RAPIDGate card.

The publicity effort on RAPIDGate has been extensive, said Harmon. ‘‘The information has been out there in the Tester, various meetings, the Plan of the Week and e-mails. If folks haven’t addressed these issues yet, it’s their wrong.”

Fullmer agreed. ‘‘If you have waited this long to get a CAC or get enrolled into RAPIDGate, you have waited as long as you possibly could,” he stated. ‘‘Do not wait another day.”