The U.S. Army will no longer put soldiers' Social Security numbers on their dog tags.
The change announced Tuesday -- the first to the iconic IDs in 40 years -- was prompted by identity theft concerns and has been a long time coming.
Since 2007, the Department of Defense has been trying to reduce its use of Social Security numbers. Randomly generated 10-digit identification numbers were issued to service members, but implementing their use across all the relevant systems (from dog tags to health care programs) has proven difficult, according to Michael Klemowski, chief of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command's Soldiers Programs Branch.
"More and more systems are going to go to the DoD ID number as technology catches up with us, and we are able to phase out the Social Security number," Klemowski said in a release.
The Army's new dog tags will be rolled out slowly on an as-needed basis.
"This change is not something where Soldiers need to run out and get new tags made," Klemowski said. "We are focusing first on the personnel who are going to deploy. If a Soldier is going to deploy, they are the first ones that need to have the new ID tags."
The Army has been using dog tags for more than a hundred years to help identify soldiers, including the wounded and dead on the battlefield. Before that, some Civil War soldiers would pin pieces of paper to their uniform with basic information about themselves.
In addition to Social Security numbers, modern dog tags include the soldier's name, blood type and religious preference (to assist with burial services). The latest change will hopefully reduce the risk of identity theft for soldiers.
With the current dog tags, Klemowski said, "If you find a pair of lost ID tags, you can pretty much do anything with that person's identity because you now have their blood type, their religion, you have their social, and you have their name. The only thing missing is their birth date, and you can usually get that by Googling a person."
The Army noted the policy change in the new Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-8-14 this past November. According to Military.com, the Army appears to be the only service branch making this adjustment.
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