Soldiers' Social Security numbers will no longer be part of their dog tags, the Army announced Tuesday.
The change, which some have argued is long overdue, is the first update to the ubiquitous identification tags in more than 40 years.
A soldier's Social Security number will be replaced by a 10-digit, randomly-generated number. The change will be implemented on an as-needed basis, Michael Klemowski, Soldiers Programs branch chief at Army Human Resources Command, said in a statement released by the Army.
"This change is not something where soldiers need to run out and get new tags made," he 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 change is in accordance with new Defense Department guidelines calling for less use of Social Security numbers. It also comes on the heels of several data breaches that compromised the personal information of millions of service members, government employees and veterans.
Removing Social Security numbers from dog tags is one of the ways the Army is trying to safeguard personal information, Klemowski said.
"If you find a pair of lost ID tags, you can pretty much do anything with that person's identify because you now have their blood type, their religion, you have their Social, and you have their name," he said.
The Army has been working on making this change for years; it was first outlined in the DoD Social Security Number Reduction Plan and the President's Task Force on Identity Theft Strategic Plan in 2007, according to the Army.
It took time to figure out how to implement the change because several Army systems used a soldier's Social Security number, and all for different purposes, Klemowski said. Each system had to be reworked so they worked with one another and the DoD ID number, he said.
"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," he said.