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Air Force discontinues use of base decals

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Air Force officials are working with other services to allow its people to enter installations without requiring them to display a base decal on their vehicles.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley recently ended use of the sticker, officially called a DD Form 2220, on Air Force installations due to cost, a lack of utility and long-term threats facing bases.

The decal was developed in the 1970s as part of a vehicle registration and traffic management system, not to bolster security, said Col. William Sellers, the Air Force chief of force protection and operations for security forces.

"There was a clear and definable need for this system (then)," he said. "A nationwide vehicle registration database did not exist, insurance was not required by all states and a process was needed to expedite vehicle entry onto installations." 

Air Force officials began questioning the value of the vehicle registration system in 2005 due to security concerns. 

Many people incorrectly viewed the decal as being designed to bolster security, Colonel Sellers said. In actuality, the decal lessens it by identifying vehicles of Airmen and civilian workers as potential terror targets and may lure gate guards into complacency.

Laws now require motorists to have a legal driver's license issued by a state, proof of vehicle ownership/state registration, evidence of insurance, and safety and emissions inspections. A national vehicle registration system is used by all civilian and military police departments in the country.

"We've been putting our own personnel through a process that simply duplicates state and federal mandatory requirements," Colonel Sellers said.

If a vehicle from a Navy base is parked illegally on an Army installation, the military police can't use its DD Form 2220 to track the owner because the two services don't share vehicle databases. Instead, the police will use the license plate number or vehicle identification number to obtain information via two national systems that provide comprehensive driver, vehicle data and access to law enforcement agency information, the colonel said.

Security forces and gate guards now check the ID of each person entering an Air Force installation, Colonel Sellers said. This provides better security than a base decal ever did because:

-- The vehicle displaying it could have been sold with the decal on it.
-- Its owner may have left the service and not removed the decal.
-- The number on the decal could be duplicated.
-- The decal could be counterfeited.
-- The decal may have been removed from another vehicle.
-- The vehicle may have been stolen.

Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., hasn't seen an increase in gate traffic since it stopped issuing base decals six months ago, said Master Sgt. James Osban, the NCO in charge of the 509th Security Forces Squadron Police Services.

"We're identifying the people coming on base and not the vehicle," he said. "We've done a 100 percent ID check for years." 

Air Force officials have asked other services to allow entry of its people to their installations by honoring their common access cards, appropriate identification or even by issuing them a DD Form 2220, which would enter them in another branch's database. In many cases, Air Force people visit other installations to shop.

"That translates into dollars for their Soldiers, Sailors and Marines," Colonel Sellers said. "Commanders want Air Force personnel on their bases."

Some within the Defense Department feel the registration system still has utility, regardless of inherent weaknesses, Colonel Sellers said. Installation commanders worried about the time it takes to access bases "need to face today's security challenges."

"Using it puts the military in serious danger of losing credibility with its own personnel and the general public," Colonel Sellers said. "The threat is here, it's real and we must continuously improve our processes and procedures."

The military branches have spent millions on new entry points, but have failed to review the process of how they allow entry onto an installation, Colonel Sellers said.

"The strength of a redesigned gate is defeated if the process to enter is flawed," he said. "Our first line of defense becomes irrelevant. The priority is not expediting entry, but knowing who is entering." 

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