In August of 2004, the White House initiated HSPD-12 to enforce standardization of secure identification credentials for government employees and contractors. The standard covers both physical and logical access to government resources.
Secure, according to the directive, means that:
• "sound criteria" are used to verify an individual's identity,
• the form of identification is "strongly resistant to identity fraud, tampering, counterfeiting, and terrorist exploitation,"
• the identification can be "rapidly authenticated electronically," and
• only accredited providers can be used to issue the identification.
In addition, the directive recognized that different applications have different levels of security requirements and stated that the standard for credentials would accommodate various levels of "graduated criteria" to ensure flexibility.
The NIST Computer Security Division initiated the PIV Program (Personal Identification Verification), developing standards, FIPS 201; as well as designing a program for testing and validation to facilitate implementation of the standard.