the DOL's systems needs and a plan for making the project a reality. "We did a thorough requirements document, not just for the card but for all aspects of the project," Kehoe said, adding that the project blueprint grew to 60 pages, while the EDL team eventually included 19 IT staffers and five more contracted programmers.

The deliberate approach the team took during those first few months was a key to success. According to Kehoe, the EDL team on his IT staff was only together from August 2007 to January 2008, but detailed project planning helped them hit the ground running. "All that up-front work really helped our cause," Kehoe said.

To handle the demands of the new EDL program, the Washington DOL opened new channels with U.S. Customs and Border Protection computers. The DOL also needed to make sure the networks would communicate effectively as soon as a driver's RFID tag was detected near the border. The DOL team also addressed the document scanning and processing requirements at every interview office. Kehoe said his team outfitted 12 offices around the state with the scanners and document authentication software called for by the project's security specifications.

The RFID tag itself was another feature tackled by the technology team. Kehoe said Washington's driver's license manufacturer, Oregon-based Digimarc Corp., had never embedded RFID tags into licenses before. Before Digimarc could begin manufacturing the cards, the company needed the DHs's technical specifications for the proper frequency and wattage to program into the tag. Kehoe said the DOL contracted out a handful of its other technology needs to Digimarc, including document authentication, scanning and the facial recognition software that makes EDL applicants match up with the photo identification they provide at the interview.

"We worked very closely with the IT and business requirements," Zenk said. "They had to all walk hand-in-hand to make this work." While Kehoe's team implemented the technology, the rest of the DOL laid the groundwork for other major aspects of the EDL program.

Along with addressing citizens' privacy concerns related to the RFID tag, Zenk said the DOL worked with major trade and tourism stakeholders to build support. The state retooled labor agreements with DOL staff members, who are now required to handle citizenship documents. At the same time, the DOL worked with state legislators to build a legal framework for the EDL program, and with DHS officials to ensure the EDL would pass federal standards. "It's really not often where you see a state work with the federal government and make something work like this," Zenk said. "It was really about developing the systems and doing things right the first time around."

Washington hopes to be a model for EDL programs in other states. A November 2007 online seminar hosted by the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region - a partnership of northwest states and provinces - showcased Washington's EDL program for a few states and provinces. The DHS is working to install RFID readers at the nation's 35 busiest border crossings, according to Klundt, in anticipation of increased demand from federal "trusted traveler" programs and more state-issued enhanced driver's licenses.

Though Washington became the first state to roll out its EDL program in January, Klundt said similar programs are under way in Vermont, New York and Arizona, where state officials also have signed formal agreements to cooperate with the DHS on enhanced license programs.

"Arizona has been staying the course to be ready by summer," Klundt said. North Dakota, Montana, Kansas, California, Michigan and Texas have all shown an interest in the program, she said, noting that even those states without an international border may find an EDL program worthwhile because RFID-enabled licenses would be accepted at any land or sea border crossing into the United States, helping to keep traffic flowing smoothly through the border's tightened security measures.

"We want people to have options," Klundt said, "but we also want people to have RFID-enabled options."

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.