Real ID draft regs due by year's end

State officials say they are already working to comply with the federal mandate but are concerned about the May 2008 deadline.

By the end of the year, the Homeland Security Department will issue draft regulations specifying how states should implement mandatory federal standards for driver's licenses. But several states have already gotten started.

Jonathan Frenkel, director of law enforcement policy at DHS, said the draft regulations will better explain the broad mandates in the Real ID Act of 2005. The department is currently reviewing the regulations and will then send them to the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies for their input.

He said drawing up the regulations took longer than expected because DHS wanted to get it right the first time. Officials have reached out to several agencies and consulted with other interested groups, including the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), the Information Technology Association of America, and privacy, civil liberties and immigration groups.

But he said DHS has 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,” said Frenkel, speaking at the Identity Management 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. Such IDs will include name, date of birth, gender, primary residential address, a digital photograph, physical security features to prevent fraud and machine-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 Transportation Department, said states are at different levels in terms of upgrading their motor vehicle systems, cleaning up their databases, creating an implementation and transition plan, and improving their business processes.

For example, she said her state has been cleaning up various databases and consulting with Viisage, which recently merged with Identix to form L-1 Identity Solutions. She also said her state has an $85 million appropriation to help it meet federal standards, but she didn’t know whether that would be enough money. Other states, such as Virginia, have created task forces that include a wide range of stakeholders, such as privacy advocates, she said.

Bernard Soriano, chief information officer of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), said his state anticipates having an additional 2.5 million customers a year as a result 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. They are also looking to modernize their existing systems.

California has also created a Real ID project office and established a statewide steering committee, he added.

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.

State officials have expressed concerns about the amount of time they will have to implement the regulations once they are finalized. They said the process has taken too long.

A September report released by AAMVA, the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures stated that it will cost $11 billion over five years to comply with the law, which will reduce efficiencies and increase wait times. The report recommends adding more federal funds and extending the compliance deadline, among other suggestions.

Frenkel said DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff cannot extend the federal deadline for all states but might be able to do it on a state-by-state basis if requested. He also said DHS might be able to provide safe harbors for some states that have shown progress even if they cannot comply by the deadline.

Sarkar is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: E-voting faces a test at the polls