Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 31, 2006

A REAL ID Act update

Filed under: Technology for HLS — by Christian Beckner on January 31, 2006

Secure ID News has a story today that provides a good overview of the current state of play of the Real ID Act implementation. It discusses the question of whether RFID technology will be mandated in future state ID’s, an idea that has privacy groups in a tizzy even though there’s no direct evidence that the federal government is considering this. It discusses the potential costs of REAL ID implementation:

Just as critical are costs, says the coalition. “While the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of complying with the REAL ID Act would be $100 million for all 50 states, the state of Washington independently concluded that it would have to spend at least $92 million in the first two years alone. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated the cost of implementation of the REAL ID Act would be $9-$13 billion. Citizens Against Government Waste has estimated that a federal chip mandate for state drivers licenses would cost $17.4 billion,” the coalition wrote. That, according to CAGW, breaks down to about $93 per license.

The extreme low-end and high-end numbers above are both nonsense. $93 per ID if there’s a mandate to include a twenty-five cent chip on an ID? That’s ludicrous. If these critics want to be taken seriously (and I think they have a very important role in this debate), they need to be more rigorous in their analysis.

The article also notes that the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), which represents state DMV’s, will be issuing its recommendations on REAL ID in late February – an important document to watch out for. And it notes that DHS has not yet established its desired regulatory outcome for REAL ID:

Meanwhile, DHS has no timeline on when the rules might be written, said Jarrod Agen, DHS spokesperson.

“We’re not at the point of announcing what may be in the rules,” he said. DHS is currently “working with individual states to talk about the key issues, like information sharing and technology connectivity and some of the hurdles that need to be looked at in those areas,” he added.

DHS needs to establish a timeline very soon if it’s going to meet the deadlines set forth by Congress. Or even better, it should engage in a dialogue with Rep. Sensenbrenner and other key congressional stakeholders on alternatives to Real ID that would address the main security requirements of identification in a more cost-effective manner. As I wrote several weeks ago:

If Real ID is a “de facto” national ID system, then it’s one of the worst possible forms of one: it’s not likely to deliver the potential security benefits of an integrated system; it doesn’t save money via national-level economies of scale; it has no clear funding stream; and oversight on privacy issues will be difficult in a 50-state stakeholder environment.

Clearly there are lots of moving pieces right now on REAL ID. Stay tuned.

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