Web extra: Real ID also affects states' systems

Vendors have opportunities to assist states that must upgrade back-end systems that support the new cards mandated by the Real ID Act.

According to the Homeland Security Department's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Real ID issued in March 2007, states must conform with standards for back-end information technology systems that support the new driver's licenses.

The rule affects systems for verifying source documents, such as birth certificates, and confirming that drivers do not have an active license in another state. States also must link to federal databases to confirm Social Security and immigration status.

States will need to collect and electronically store new information, such as copies of applicants' birth certificates. State motor vehicle departments also might need to check with utility company databases to confirm valid addresses, although industry executives say that step is not feasible now and might be delayed.

Many states will need to modify existing IT systems to meet those requirements and comply with basic rules that prescribe the data and its format on the cards. For example, DHS is likely to require full first, middle and last names that can use as many as 125 characters. Some existing licenses cannot accommodate that much text for names.

In addition to providing back-end solutions, vendors have more opportunities to support the four states -- Arizona, New York, Vermont and Washington -- that are working on hybrid driver's licenses that are likely to comply with the Real ID Act and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative for border crossings. But because those projects are being done in a small scale and swiftly, several of those states may use existing contracts, industry executives say.

States also may seek grants to pay for a portion of the Real ID upgrades.

In December, DHS released grant guidance to assist states in applying for $35 million to begin implementing Real ID requirements. The bulk of those funds, $31 million, is designated for projects to assist states in checking motor vehicle records in other states to ensure that drivers do not hold multiple licenses. The money will also support projects for verifying applications against federal records, such as immigration status, DHS said. Another $4 million will be deployed to verify birth certificates.

For additional Real ID support, state governments can use 20 percent of their State Homeland Security Grant allotments for Real ID-related projects, but so far, that pool has not had much effect, said Jeremy Grant, senior vice president at Stanford Group Co.

But the Real ID promise of regulations and the grants are boosting activity at state DMVs.

"Many of the state systems have not seen major updates in 15 to 30 years," said Tina Naugle, executive director of public service operating group at Accenture. "Real ID has been the impetus to push that forward."

Alice Lipowicz (alipowicz@1105govinfo.com) is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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