DHS extends Real ID compliance date to January 2013

Delay is attributed to diminished state budgets, congressional concerns.

The Homeland Security Department on Monday extended until 2013 the deadline for states to comply with costly and controversial new requirements for drivers' licenses.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes drivers' licenses that fail to meet enhanced security features. Initially the requirement was to go into effect May 11, 2008, and was later extended to May 11, 2011. DHS, in a notice in Monday's Federal Register, further extended the deadline to Jan. 15, 2013.

DHS said in the notice that the date was extended for a number of reasons, including state budget cuts resulting from the economic downturn and the possibility that Congress might modify some requirements of Real ID.

"As a result of these factors, and because of the significant progress many states are making toward achieving full compliance, DHS believes that a change of the full compliance deadline from May 11, 2011, to Jan. 15, 2013, is warranted," the notice said. "This change will give states more time to ensure that the documents they issue meet the security requirements of the Real ID Act."

Sen. Partrick Leahy, D-Vt., applauded the move and said the law has "saddled the states with enormous costs and burdened citizens with the prospect of what effectively would be a national identification card."

"When so many states are struggling with extremely difficult budget choices, the last thing they need is to think about how to pay for this unfunded federal mandate," Leahy said in a statement. "I expect that the delay announced by [Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano will come as welcome news to many governors, legislatures and citizens."

Rep. Peter King , R-N.Y., blasted the delay as unnecessary and pointed to the arrest of a terrorism suspect in Texas last month as proof that DHS "needs to dedicate time and resources to working with states to be compliant with the law."

"It is unacceptable that the Obama Administration has done everything possible to delay and scale back the implementation of real ID," King said in a statement.