States told to expect Real ID draft regs by end of the year

The Homeland Security Department will issue draft regulations by the end of the year to specify how states should implement mandatory federal standards for driver’s licenses.

Jonathan Frenkel, director of law enforcement policy at DHS, said the draft regulations will better explain the broad mandates of the Real ID Act of 2005.

Creating the regulations took longer than expected because DHS wanted to get them right the first time, Frenkel said. Officials reached out to several agencies and consulted other interested groups, including the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators; the Information Technology Association of America; and privacy, civil liberties and immigration groups.

Frenkel said DHS tried to make its intentions as clear as possible so states could take steps before regulations are released for comment. States have until May 11, 2008, to meet the federal requirements.

“Those states that have done something are going to be in a much better position to come into compliance,” Frenkel said, speaking at a recent conference sponsored by ITAA.

The Real ID Act establishes nationwide security and data standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards as a way to verify and authenticate individuals’ identities. The new ID cards will include name, date of birth, gender, primary residential address, a digital photograph, physical security features to prevent fraud, and computer-readable technology.

When applying for a license, an applicant must supply an identity document, such as a birth certificate, which state employees must verify and store electronically.

Betty Serian, deputy secretary for safety administration at Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, said states are at different stages of upgrading their motor vehicle systems, cleaning their databases, creating implementation and transition plans, and improving their business processes.

For example, Serian said Pennsylvania has an $85 million appropriation to help it meet federal standards, but she didn’t know whether that would be enough money.

Bernard Soriano, chief information officer of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, said the state anticipates having an additional 2.5 million customers a year because of the federal mandate and has considered revamping business processes to handle the increase. He said officials are planning other actions, such as retooling Web applications, expanding facilities and deploying new technologies.

State officials generally agree with the intent of the federal law but have complained about its projected costs and time constraints.

“It is flat-out impossible for DMVs to implement the prescriptive requirements of this law by May 2008,” Serian said.

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