Chertoff grants S.C. Real ID extension

The Homeland Security Department has given South Carolina an extension for complying with new federal rules for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards despite the governor’s opposition to the Real ID program.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff granted the extension today in response to a letter from South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in which Sanford said he did not plan to request an extension for Real ID compliance. But his list of the improvements that the state had made in ID security paved the way for DHS to grant an extension as it had with Montana and New Hampshire without those states agreeing to comply with the regulation.

Chertoff said that he would treat Sanford’s letter as the basis for an extension and grant it, avoiding a potential showdown with angry travelers who would not have been able to use their state-issued IDs to board airplanes if the state did not request an extension.

“Indeed, based on your assurances, it seems clear that South Carolina is well on the way to meeting requirements comparable to those required by the final Real ID regulation,” Chertoff wrote. “I will therefore treat your letter as a basis for an extension and hereby grant it.”

Sanford’s letter, sent earlier today, in addition to detailing progress his state had made on securing its Department of Motor Vehicle systems, was also a critique of Real ID. He railed against the requirements as an unfunded mandate that could upset the balance of power between states and the federal government. He added that he thought the issues would be resolved or the law would be discarded in the next 18 months.

In his response Chertoff said that he appreciated Sanford’s feedback but could not agree with his critiques particularly those involving the data sharing structure that would be set up. Chertoff also noted that Real ID does not create a national database but builds on systems in place that have not produced large-scale data compromises that Sanford said he was concerned about.

Sanford said that Real ID represented the creation of a national network of driver’s license databases that will effectively be a central repository for personal information — a concern because of all of the recent security breaches.

Chertoff also said DHS has worked hard to address states’ funding concerns, which Sanford also mentioned in his letter.

As of late this afternoon, only Maine has not been granted an extension for Real ID compliance. The state and DHS are reported to be working out a solution.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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