Real ID standards expected in two to three months, says DHS official

The Homeland Security Department’s delay in releasing the standards for states to implement the Real ID Act seems to be coming to an end.

Stewart Baker, DHS’ assistant secretary for policy, today said it was a matter of months before the agency will issue the standards for enhanced driver’s licenses. Congress passed the Real ID Act in May 2005 calling for states to develop tamper-proof driver’s licenses and keep digital images of verification documents by 2008. DHS has since extended the deadline to Dec. 31, 2009.

DHS officials had hoped to release standards earlier this year, but Baker said they ended up making significant changes and still are figuring out how much money these changes will save states.

Experts estimate Real ID could cost states about $11 billion to implement, and DHS is not providing much of that funding.

“We have figured out what we want to do,” he said in a speech during an identity management event sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America in Washington. “Once we figure out how much it will save states, we will send it to the Office of Management and Budget for their approval.”

Baker added that OMB has 90 days to review it, but he said he thinks they will not take that long to send it back to DHS to release the final rule.

Baker, who would not offer further information on the new standard, said he would hope it would be out in the next two to three months.

One source who is familiar with DHS’ work on the standard said the biggest changes will be affect security and time frame.

The source, who requested anonymity, said DHS likely will leave it to the states to decide how to secure the driver’s license instead of prescribing security requirements.

The source also said DHS likely will ask states to implement Real ID by around 2013.

Brendan Peter, senior director of industry affairs at LexisNexis Special Services, said he didn’t think the Real ID standard would converge with the standards for Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12.

“Each state is unique and has unique requirements,” he said.

Dan Combs, a former director of digital government for Iowa and the director of the National Emergency Preparedness Coordinating Council, said states are looking at HSPD-12 as a model for Real ID.

“The federal government needs to look at what it has done and reference back to it,” he said.

Jeremy Grant, senior vice president for emerging technologies market at Stanford Research Group, added that the new standards likely will be a floor for states instead of a ceiling.

“If DHS prescribes less stringent requirements than what states are doing to upgrade their systems now will go above and beyond that,” he said.

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