Defense Department are proposing new regulations calling for a complete review of military records and reports to determine when the Social Security number isn't necessary. (Navy)
The Pentagon is preparing to launch a militarywide effort to reduce the use of Social Security numbers to lower the chances of identity theft for military and civilian employees and contractors.
But the announcement in the March 3 Federal Register makes clear that completely halting the use of Social Security numbers is not feasible.
The SSN is a prize to identity thieves, but it also has become ingrained in various military uses that can't be fully eliminated, Defense Department officials said. They are proposing new regulations calling for a complete review of military records and reports to determine when the number isn't necessary.
From 1969 to 1974, Social Security numbers gradually replaced service numbers as the main identifier and authenticator of military personnel.
Expanded use of SSNs has increased efficiency and reduced errors in records transactions, but the threat of identity theft "has rendered this widespread use unacceptable," Defense officials said.
The proposed regulation, open for comment until May 3, says SSNs remain acceptable for some uses, such as for employment and tax purposes, security clearance investigations, computer matching with other government agencies, and as the primary form of identification for Geneva Conventions purposes.
For all other purposes, the proposed regulation directs a review of every case of SSN usage in military records to determine if an alternative is possible.
If a particular usage can be dropped, it will be. If an identifier is needed but it doesn't have to be the SSN, an alternative will be used. If no viable alternative is available, a flag or general officer or a Senior Executive Service civilian would have to authorize use of the SSN.