More than half of states moving on Real ID

Although the program is controversial, 27 states are likely to meet milestones

Despite persistent fears that the federal Real ID program is meeting resistance from the states, more than half of the states are making good progress toward meeting all 18 Real ID Act benchmarks by the December deadline. Although many states have passed nonbinding resolutions that express concerns about the Real ID Act and its implementation, as Federal Computer Week has reported, many governors — even those in states perceived as not welcoming the program — have moved forward with compliance.

For example, Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicle Web site has several Web pages devoted to informing state residents of the new requirements and a comprehensive explanation regarding the need for Real ID compliance. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Web site indicates that the state also is implementing Real ID requirements.

The Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License maintains a compilation of all state motor vehicle administration initiatives that address Real ID compliance. Our data shows that by this December, 14 states will be in compliance with the interim benchmarks set by the Homeland Security Department. An additional 13 states could potentially meet those same requirements in 2010 if they continue making progress at the rate they have been.

The Real ID Act, which became law in 2005, responded to a recommendation made by the 9/11 Commission, which argued that the federal government should set standards for identification documents. The law sets minimum standards for driver's licenses used for official purposes, such as boarding an airplane or entering a nuclear power plant. The purpose of Real ID is to close critical vulnerabilities and prevent criminals and other bad guys from fraudulently obtaining identification.

Many criticisms of the Real ID Act stem from assessments that suggest states are unenthusiastic about compliance or even refusing to try. The problem with such analysis is that DHS has not accurately determined how states are implementing the Real ID Act.

On July 15, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing on the PASS ID Act, and many senators including Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and ranking member, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), expressed concern about the unintended consequences of the PASS ID Act.

The committee is right to be concerned. Although the PASS ID Act purportedly reduces the cost relative to the Real ID Act, it does so by lowering the bar to what Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy at the Homeland Security Department, called a pre-9/11 standard. Tthe PASS ID Act contains a number of questionable provisions that deserve a thorough review. For example, under it, Transportation Security Administration employees would not be allowed to stop people from boarding a plane even if the passengers can't produce a PASS ID-compliant driver’s license.

About the Author

Andrew Meehan is a staff member at the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, a non-partisan, nonprofit crime prevention organization based in Washington, D.C.

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