The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Food Stamps as Model for NSTIC

Getting Private Sector to Lead Creation of New National System
Food Stamps as Model for NSTIC

The way the government automated food stamps, the program that subsidizes food purchases for the poor, could serve as a model to establish standards for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, or NSTIC.

NSTIC is the initiative the Obama administration unveiled earlier this month in which the federal government and private sector would collaborate to create a system of authentication credentials to make the transaction of business over the Internet safe and simpler.

The government doesn't want to dictate NSTIC standards, says Jeremy Grant, senior executive adviser for identity management at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the government's point man on NSTIC.

In a conversation on Thursday, I asked Grant if he could cite an existing organization in which NSTIC standards and governance could be modeled? He replied Food Stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a Great Society creation run by the Department of Agriculture.

Until about 15 years ago, food stamps consisted of coupons of various colors and denominations. The government wanted to do away with paper and go electronic. Grant said USDA asked the North American Clearinghouse Association - which manages the development, administration and governance of the Automated Clearinghouse Network, the backbone for the electronic movement of money and data - to form the Electronic Benefits Transfer Council, now known as the Electronic Benefits and Services Council.

"They brought in different stakeholders, from technology providers, people who made point-of-sales terminals, the retailers who accept them, consumer advocates, privacy advocates for the poor, the banks who have a lot to do with how that system works; really anybody else who had a stake in it. (NACHA) facilitated the creations of the standards and operating rules that allowed the elimination of paper food stamps and moved everything toward the bank-card system.
"That's just one example of what the government has done before and we're currently studying a number of different governance models and trying to figure out what the best one should be."

In the next few days, I'll post my interview with Grant.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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