Department of Defense Identification Cards

The Department of Defense provides members of the uniformed services, dependents and other eligible individuals with distinct identification cards to identify their status as active-duty, reserve or retired members and as an authorization card for uniformed services' benefits. This article provides some background information on eligibility requirements and card types, as well as how to get or replace your ID card.

Card types and eligibility

There are two main types of ID cards provided by the DoD: the Common Access Card and the uniformed services ID card.

  • Common Access Card - The CAC, a "smart" card about the size of a credit card, is the standard identification for active duty military personnel, Selected Reserve, DoD civilian employees and eligible contractor personnel. It is also the principal card used to enable access to buildings and controlled spaces, and it provides access to defense computer networks and systems.
  • Uniformed services ID card - There are seven different uniformed services ID cards and the benefits associated with each card depend on who you are or who your sponsor is. They include:
    • Department of Defense Form 2 (reserve) - This card is for members of the Individual Ready Reserves and inactive National Guard.
    • Department of Defense Form 2 (retired) - This card is for retired members entitled to retired pay, members on the Temporary Disability Retired List and members on the Permanent Disability Retired List.
    • Department of Defense Form 2 (reserve retired) - This ID card is for retired members of the reserves and National Guard younger than 60 years of age.
    • Department of Defense Form 1173 - This ID card is for dependents of active-duty service members of the Active Component, Reserve Component service members on active duty for more than 30 days, retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, former members in receipt of retired pay, members in the Transitional Health Care Program, 100% disabled veterans and ship's officers and crewmembers of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessels. The DD Form 1173 is also the ID card for surviving dependents of active-duty and retired military members, Medal of Honor recipients and 100% disabled veterans, as well as accompanying family members of authorized civilian personnel at certain installations when required to reside on a military installation.
    • Department of Defense Form 2765 - This ID card is for Medal of Honor recipients, 100% disabled veterans, former service members in receipt of retired pay, service members in the Transitional Health Care Program and other benefits-eligible categories as described in DoD policy.
    • DoD civilian retiree card - This ID card is for appropriated and non-appropriated fund civilians that have retired from any DoD service component or agency.

Getting an identification card

To get your uniformed services ID card or CAC, you must complete the following steps:

  • Sponsorship and eligibility - In order to receive a uniformed services ID card, you must have a sponsor. This sponsor is authorized to create your profile and guide you through the process. If you are a dependent, an active-duty or retired service member will be your sponsor. In order to receive a CAC, you must be sponsored by a DoD government official or employee. For the majority of CAC holders (military and DoD civilian), your sponsor will be an authoritative data feed from your human resources department. Otherwise, the sponsor is the person affiliated with the DoD or other federal agency who takes responsibility for verifying and authorizing your need for an ID card.
  • Registration and enrollment - You must be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System by completing DD Form 1172-2. If you are a dependent, an active-duty or retired service member must take action to register you and ensure you are correctly entered in DEERS.
  • Background investigation - If you are an applicant for a CAC, your sponsor will initiate a background check involving a Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint check and a National Agency Check with Written Inquiries check. Since the NACI process can take up to 18 months, you may be issued a CAC before the process is completed and after a favorable fingerprint return. If the NACI process is completed and you are not approved, however, your CAC will be revoked. A background investigation is not required for uniformed services ID cards.
  • Obtaining your card - Once your DEERS registration is complete, you must visit a Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System site for final verification and processing. When you go to a RAPIDS site, you must bring two forms of ID in original form. At least one form of ID must bear a photo (for example, a passport or a driver's license). If you are a dependent, your sponsor may need to accompany you, unless DD Form 1172-2 has been signed in front of the verifying official, signed by the sponsor and notarized, or signed using a general Power of Attorney. You can locate the nearest RAPIDS site through the Defense Manpower Data Center RAPIDS site locator website.

Keeping your ID card secure

You are responsible for keeping your ID Card in good condition and you are the only person allowed to use the card. Any person willfully altering, damaging, lending, counterfeiting or using these cards in any unauthorized manner is subject to fine or imprisonment or both. Unauthorized or fraudulent use of an ID card would exist if you used the card to obtain benefits and privileges to which you are not entitled.

If you have a CAC, you will need a personal identification number to access information stored on the CAC. Only those authorized personnel who are granted access to the applications and secret keys can modify or delete the data added on the chip, and then only with your PIN. To protect the information on your CAC, you should never tell anyone your PIN or write it down where it can be easily found. Your PIN should be kept secure at all times, just like your social security number.

Some commercial establishments request government identification to verify military affiliation or to provide government rates for services. While these establishments can ask to see your government ID, photocopying a U.S. government ID card is a violation of law punishable by both fine and/or imprisonment. Although there are some instances where photocopying is authorized (doctor's offices, hospitals, etc.), it is usually best for you to use a state drivers license or other form of photo identification if a business insists on photocopying your identification.

Replacing or renewing your ID card

If you lose your uniformed services ID card or CAC, you should go to the nearest RAPIDS site and obtain your new card. If your uniformed services ID card or CAC expires, you should go to the nearest RAPIDS site and obtain your new card. You can locate the nearest RAPIDS site through the DMDC RAPIDS Site Locator website.

All ID cards are property of the U.S. government and shall be returned upon separation, resignation, firing, termination of contract or affiliation with the DoD, or upon any other event in which the individual no longer requires the use of such ID card. To prevent any unauthorized use, ID cards that are expired, invalidated, stolen, lost or otherwise suspected of potential or actual unauthorized use shall be revoked in DEERS. 


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