A comprehensive analysis of the somewhat controversial federal Real ID Act by the National Governors Association (NGA), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) revealed that the Act will cost states $11 billion over the first five years of implementation. At this point Congress has allocated only $40 million for the implementation of the Act. "States feel it is vitally important for Congress and the administration to understand the substantial fiscal and operational cost of altering state systems," said NGA Executive Director Raymond C. Scheppach.

According to the results, implementing the Real ID Act will be not only a tremendous cost, but also a logistics problem. There are 245 million drivers in America, and each one must physically re-enroll at a state DMV to verify their identity with the appropriate documents, all by May 2008. "It is impracticable for states to renew all 245 million drivers' licensees in five years," said NCSL Executive Director William T. Pound. Instead, the recommendation is to implement a 10 year, progressive re-enrollment schedule, which is similar to the British Identity Act 2006. "We think states should be provided the flexibility to delay revivifying certain populations in order to maximize resources," Pound added.

Another issue is the lack of definite statutes from the Department of Homeland Security, which in turn is delaying the implementation of the cards. The report recommends that the Department of Homeland Security recognize the technological innovation of the states, recognize that some states have already moved towards compliance with similar security measures and that the Real ID Act is hindering innovation in some states where they have had to put development on hold, waiting for the final statutes.

In regards to technology, some of the "electronic verification systems which are necessary to electronically verify an individual's identification documents do not exist or are not fully operational at this time," Pound explained.

The basic findings and recommendations of the report are:

  • extend the compliance deadline
  • provide the funds necessary for states to comply with Real ID
  • provide the federal electronic verification systems necessary to comply with the law
  • require states to employ electronic verification systems only as they become available
  • implement a 10 year re-enrollment schedule
  • adopt uniform naming conventions to facilitate electronic verification between files
  • allow reciprocity for persons already vetted by the federal government
  • establish card security criteria based on performance -- not technology
  • grant the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility to recognize innovation at the state level

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer