Senators grill DHS on Real ID costs

Lawmakers yesterday asked Homeland Security Department officials to address their concerns that many states cannot afford to develop secure driver's licenses as required by the Real ID Act.

The Real ID Act requires states to develop machine-readable driver’s licenses that include standard security features. It also requires state offices to provide links to a central federal database. For many states, these changes entail costly equipment upgrades.

“The federal government has a tendency to force new responsibilities on state and local governments without providing adequate funding to cover the true cost,” stated Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) in a prepared statement.

DHS predicts that all together states would spend $17.2 billion to $23.1 billion, with most of the costs being incurred within the first five years. The National Governor’s Association predicted that $11 billion alone would be spent by states to meet the May 2008 implementation deadline.

Already, two states — Idaho and Maine — have passed measures rejecting Real ID, and several other states have similar legislation under development.

“We are seriously looking at the cost situation,” said DHS assistant secretary for policy development Richard Barth, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. One factor that could help is that DHS will not require states to be linked to the central database by 2008, he added.


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