and Border Protection Spokeswoman Kelly Klundt. These include "the materials they're printed on, the inks, the holograms and the issuance process, which begins with vetting the DMV employees who will be issuing the licenses," Klundt said.

The issuance process for an EDL is one of the program's main security strengths. According to the Washington DOL, staff members involved in the EDL process must participate in special fraud document recognition training from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Citizens also must interview in-person to receive an EDL, and provide proof of identity and citizenship documents, which are scanned, authenticated and saved in a state database.

The other novel development for the EDL is the RFID chip embedded in the license that allows officials to check a driver's identity even as a person pulls up to the border station. According to Zenk, the DHS insisted on the RFID to keep the border crossing moving quickly, as with similar "trusted traveler" programs administered by the DHS. Because the state is producing RFID-embedded licenses to be read at DHS-run border stations, the tags will continue to require close state and federal cooperation. According to Zenk, the RFID in the license will carry no personal data, only a reference number created by the DHS. Those DHS RFID readers at the border will pass that number along to the Washington DOL database, which then returns the driver's name, address and photo to the officers at the border station.

As in other programs involving RFID, the EDL sparked privacy worries among some Washington residents. People carrying an EDL may be concerned they're broadcasting personal information anytime they leave the house with the license in their pocket, Zenk said, adding that one of the biggest challenges has been this concern about privacy and the new technology. "We've gone to great lengths to tell people that the RFID chip doesn't have any personal information," she said. "DHS doesn't have direct access to our database."

Quick Fix, National Model

Making the EDL a reality required a massive reshuffling of priorities within the Washington DOL, new channels for personal and systems communication outside the department, and new technology in the license itself. "We got our marching orders from the governor to make this work," Zenk said. "Our agency basically reorganized itself to make this a priority, because it was changing the way we do business."

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire first discussed the possibility of an enhanced license with British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell at a summit in June 2006. A month later Gregoire sounded out U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on the EDL alternative, and by March 2007, the state had signed a memorandum of understanding with the DHS to go ahead with the project. "We did this in a very short 18-month period of time," Zenk said. "We're very proud of the fact that we were able to mobilize and get this done when we did." To keep business and tourism flowing freely between Washington and British Columbia, DOL officials knew they needed to have the project ready around the time the new proof-of-citizenship requirements took effect.

Just developing a model for the EDL - including the features necessary to satisfy Canadian and DHS officials - was a months-long process, but Bill Kehoe, CIO of the Washington DOL, said there was no way to proceed with the project without being sure all parties were satisfied with the plan. "That was a critical phase of the project," Kehoe said. "We couldn't have even gone forward without the approval of U.S. Homeland Security."

With a clear idea of the security features and procedures the EDL would require, Kehoe said the next step was building a project team that included some of his top management staff, and tasking them with an assessment of

Patrick Michels  |  Contributing Writer
Patrick Michels is based in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. He writes for Government Technology, Texas Technology and Emergency Management magazines.