Real ID funding called inadequate

Compliance will run $11B, say governors, and just $40M has been allocated

The U.S. government's proposed funding to states to implement the controversial Real ID Act is not nearly enough to cover the estimated $11 billion cost to comply with the federal law.

That was the conclusion that emerged from the annual meeting of the bipartisan National Governors Association (NGA) last weekend in Traverse City, Mich.

The Real ID Act dictates national standards for state driver's licenses and other official documents, requiring that they include a digital photograph and a bar code that can be scanned by a reader. While a number of states, including New Hampshire, have voted to reject Real ID, the NGA is calling for more funding from the federal government.

The NGA in a statement Monday noted that Real ID will probably cost states more than $11 billion over the next five years. That figure includes $1 billion upfront to implement the systems and processes needed to meet the law's requirements and reprocess all of the nation's 245 million driver's license and identification cards.

The U.S. Congress has so far only appropriated $40 million for state assistance, according to the NGA.

"If Congress is truly committed to transforming Real ID into a reasonable and workable law that actually increases the security of our citizens, it must commit the federal funds necessary to implement this federal mandate," the association said. As the U.S. Senate moves to consider the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1, the governors are hoping the Real ID mandates will be fully funded.

Last month, the NGA was more direct in voicing its opposition to Real ID. In a statement, the association called the Real ID law in its current form "unworkable" and said any mandate to use Real ID-compliant driver's licenses and identification and employment verification documents is "premature." The NGA also called the timelines and requirements of the law unrealistic.

The initial Real ID compliance deadline for states is next year, with full compliance expected by 2013.

A spokesman from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is charged with finalizing the Real ID mandates, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The agency has warned individuals from states that don't comply with Real ID that their driver's licenses will be inadequate to enter airports, government buildings and infrastructure sites such as power plants.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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