The FAA will put out a request for proposal in the next week or two and hopes to begin issuing cards later this summer, said spokeswoman Tammy Jones.
The cards will initially be used as ID badges, but the FAA plans to add biometric data and eventually use the cards to control access to locations and computers, she said.
"We're going to use the program to get lessons learned and see where we go from there," she said. "We'll evaluate it and determine the best approach for implementing smart cards."
The FAA is part of the team working with the Transportation Security Administration on developing a standard for smart cards that could eventually be applied throughout the Department of Transportation. The Aviation Security Act, signed by President George Bush in November, required the DOT to "work with airport operators to strengthen access control points in secured areas" and to consider usingdata.