I believe it was Napoleon that said, “An army travels on its stomach”, as in, you need to provide food for your troops or nothing will happen, at all. Another axiom of military supply is that the military needs to be given a steady supply of “beans & bullets”. There are no shortage of little sayings about maintaining supply and an abundance of all sorts of things that appear minor, but are actually quite vital.
And then we get to today, this modern military of ours, and the CAC card. “CAC” stands for “Common Access Card” and yes, calling it a CAC Card is redundant, since you are basically saying “Common Access Card Card”. But this is part of the reality now.
CAC cards started coming out sometime in the 1990’s, and by the end of that decade, everyone had them– active duty military, Reserves, National Guard, everyone. They are your identification but also your electronic key to using military computers… and of course everything about you, and your job, and everything you need to do that job, are likely on computers somewhere. So you plug your CAC card into a little slot on your computer somewhere (the government has all their computers built with these CAC slots now) and log in with your password. Your CAC card has a little chip on it with your first-factor authentication and security & access certificates; you provide the password and confirm your identity and off you go: you can now use a military computer.
It’s all fun & games until a certificate on your CAC card is out of date, or you miss a vital upgrade, or whatever. The earliest CAC cards were a pain for Guard and Reserve forces, because everything expired if you didn’t use them every 30 days. So you had to log in just for the sake of logging in, and the military had to provide take-home card readers that plugged into a USB port so you could keep up.
Nowadays, CAC cards and home readers work reliably enough that training commands now feel comfortable pushing a lot of computer classes onto the troops during non-drill weekends, but that’s a tale that has been covered before.
Still, once a CAC card becomes nonfunctional for some reason, your ability to participate meaningfully in a lot of activities has come to a halt. You can’t even get emails or carry out electronic signatures if your CAC fails to work, and you have to go to “S-6” or staff section 6, the Communications staff, to get it fixed. It takes time, it always happens at an inopportune moment, and now the Army can’t do anything because of you and your CAC.