The government expects all its employees to carry multipurpose smart cards within two years, a federal official said last week.

The government, which today plays a role in 200 smart card projects, plans for workers to use chip cards for building access, business expenses, and Internet services, said Jack Radzikowski, chief of federal financial systems for the Office of Management and Budget.

Mr. Radzikowski, speaking at the American Bankers Association's Bank Card Conference in Long Beach, Calif., said the government feels "compelling pressure" to move into electronic payments.

Federal mandates require that social service benefits be paid electronically next year and that government vendors be paid electronically in 1999. The government is also seeking to convert its purchasing, travel, and fleet card systems to smart card technology.

Mr. Radzikowski identified $640 billion worth of services-including student loans, Medicare, and Medicaid-that can be managed on smart cards. Moreover, he said, the government is ahead of many large corporations in its planning and use of the technology.

"The federal smart card market is a lot larger than most people think and is growing a lot faster than most people think," Mr. Radzikowski said. "We clearly have the mandate and the time frame, and we think we're getting organized."

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