According to a statement released today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), states will now have until December 31, 2009 to implement the regulations of the Real ID act.

The Real ID Act implements security features to drivers and identification cards. These standards must be met to allow the card holder to board planes, enter federal buildings and nuclear power plants. States that receive extensions will have to submit proposed timetables for compliance. The regulations include:

  • Security features that must be incorporated into each card
  • Verification of information provided by applicants to establish their identity and lawful status in the United States
  • Physical security standards for locations where licenses and identification cards are issued.
"Raising the security standards on driver's licenses establishes another layer of protection to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using fake documents to plan or carry out an attack," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "These standards correct glaring vulnerabilities exploited by some of the 9/11 hijackers who used fraudulently obtained drivers licenses to board the airplanes in their attack against America. We will work closely with states to implement these standards and protect American's privacy against identity theft and the use of fraudulent documents."

DHS also announced that up to 20 percent of a state's Homeland Security Grant Program funds can be used to help implement Real ID.

The act has come under fire recently with many senators speaking out against it, as well as the Maine legislature signing a joint resolution against its implementation. The National Governors Association (NGA) issued a statement regarding the introduction of an amendment by Senator Susan Collins to delay implementation of Real ID. "This proposal would provide states a more workable time frame to comply with federal standards, ensure necessary systems are operational and enhance the input states and other stakeholders have in the implementation process," said the NGA.

"We are also pleased to have been able to work with Senator Susan Collins, and I believe that the proposed regulations reflect her approach," added Chertoff.

One of the issues most debated about the Real ID act was its addition to the larger "Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief Act."

"Real ID was stuffed into the supplemental appropriations bill for Hurricane Katrina and the troops in Iraq, so of course we had to vote for the bill," said Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, yesterday. "But we had no chance to amend it -- no debate, no hearing, and no consideration of other alternatives. And now we impose on the states an $11 billion unfunded mandate ... I would say we wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't stop and think about what we've done."

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer