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GSA Awards FEMA ACES Digital Signature Certificates

GSA #9714

July 28, 2000
Contact: Eleni Martin (202) 501-1231

WASHINGTON - Under its Access Certificates for Electronics Services (ACES) contract, the U.S. General Services Administration awarded 10,000 digital signature certificates to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"We are pleased that within weeks after the President signed electronic signature legislation with an ACES certificate that FEMA is one of the first agencies to receive ACES certificates," said Marty Wagner, Associate Administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy in GSA.

The digital signature certificates are part of 500,000 ACES certificates to be distributed free of issuance cost to agencies over the next year. Digital signature certificates are used to verify the identity of users when they digitally sign documents over the Internet.

FEMA's National Emergency Management Information System (NEMIS) will use the certificates to allow emergency managers at each of the participating Federal, State and local government agencies to access several critical databases and web sites. NEMIS is an Agency-wide system of hardware, systems and applications software, and telecommunications capabilities to deliver individual and public assistance, as well as mitigation grants. Up until now, due to the nature of the information processed, most of NEMIS operated within the protection of FEMA firewalls. Now, selected NEMIS applications can be web-enabled, moved outside the firewalls, and protected with ACES and encryption.

The NEMIS implementation of ACES will begin with the Rapid Response Information System (RRIS), continue with the Response and Recovery Operations Planning (RROP) capability, and be followed by the Infrastructure (Public Assistance) web application. The Rapid Response Information System (RRIS) is a reference guide, training aid and overall planning and training resource for response to a chemical, biological, or nuclear incident. The RRIS is comprised of several databases, including information on the characteristics of chemical, biological agents, and radiological materials as well as first aid measures, federal response capabilities, hotlines, and other Federal information sources. The Response and Recovery Operations Planning (RROP) capability provides real-time disaster situation reports, "flash" news updates, emergency contact information, assessment maps, and reports. The Infrastructure (Public Assistance) web application will permit State and local governments to request federal assistance to repair their damaged facilities and infrastructure in national disasters as well as to track resulting project reviews, approvals, and grants. State and local governments also will have access to detailed and summary reports.

The digital signature certificates allow individuals access to these and other protected applications, but it does not allow them to update the information directly. FEMA plans to begin issuing ACES digital signature certificates and allowing access to the data bases August 15, 2000.

According to Bill Prusch, the NEMIS Project Officer, "The NEMIS Project has been instrumental in stimulating numerous improvements in the Agency's disaster business processes as well as its information systems architecture. The use of ACES to secure and extend NEMIS capabilities to federal, state and local agencies over the Internet may be one of its most significant improvements to the delivery of disaster assistance and to the Agency's information technology architecture to date."

The common public key infrastructure or "PKI" will allow the American public to electronically access their own privacy-protected information on U.S. government sites in addition to services over the Internet. ACES is intended to provide identification, authentication, and non-repudiation via the use of digital signature technology as a means for individuals and business entities to be authenticated when accessing, retrieving, and submitting information with the government. It is a key initiative in assisting the agencies' response to the Government Paperwork Elimination Act.

Under the half-million certificates task order, Digital Signature Trust of Salt Lake City, Utah will issue up to 400,000 certificates and AT&T will issue up to 100,000 over a one-year period. Both companies will act as Certificate Authorities for the certificates, which will be provided to requesting agencies free of issuance costs. These authorities, acting as neutral third parties, maintain the identity and public key information for each individual or business, enabling federal agencies to rely upon the authenticity of the certificates when interfacing with the public and the business sector.

For further information regarding FEMA's electronic applications, please contact Mary Margaret Walker at 202-646-3892 or e-mail at ACES inquiries should be forwarded to Helen Chapman at 202-205-9639, e-mail at, or visit the ACES web-site at

Last Reviewed 2010-04-30