ITAA to Congress: cut a check for Real ID now

The Information Technology Association of America wrote to lawmakers yesterday urging approval of $50 million in immediate funding to help states implement the Real ID Act. Separately, an industry analyst predicted that Real ID would be implemented more slowly than originally anticipated.

Under the Real ID Act, which Congress approved in 2005, states must conform to new national guidelines on collecting, verifying, storing and publishing personal information for driver's licenses, and on sharing that information with other states. The act has stirred up controversy over whether the databases can be made secure enough to reduce identity theft and to protect privacy. The Homeland Security Department expects to issue final rules next month.

The Real ID Act is a major contracting opportunity, with anticipated production of more than 200 million ID cards along with readers, enrollment centers, and supporting IT systems. Estimated costs are $11 billion over five years.

The House included $50 million for Real ID in the Homeland Security Department appropriations bill for fiscal 2008. The Senate considered, but failed to pass, an amendment that would have provided $300 million for Real ID.

The ITAA wrote to House and Senate conferees for the DHS spending bill asking that the $50 million be retained in the final version of the bill.

"Appropriating $50 million would signal a clear recognition by Congress that the federal government must be a full partner with the states in implementing Real ID," ITAA President Phil Bond said in a news release.

The ITAA also cited a survey in which 82 percent of adults generally would be in favor of new rules and regulations for state-issued driver's licenses or identification card designed to help prevent terrorism, identity theft and other crimes.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Grant, senior vice president for Stanford Group Co. research firm in Washington, said in a statement released Monday that he is lowering near-term estimates for spending associated with implementation of the Real ID Act of 2005.

Grant said he based his prediction on delays anticipated both from Congress not passing the DHS appropriations bill quickly, resulting in a longer time in releasing the anticipated $50 million in early fiscal 2008 and from DHS taking longer than expected in releasing $37 million in previously appropriated fiscal 2006 grant money to states for Real ID.

Furthermore, Grant wrote, DHS appears likely to adopt a slower pace for Real ID implementation than what was originally proposed in a March 2007 draft.

"Numerous sources suggest that DHS has settled on mandating a phased approach, focusing first on higher-risk individuals under age 40, followed by the rest of the population. It could drag on for 8-10 years," Grant wrote in an analysis.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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