NASCIO: Feds must increase cybersecurity, Real ID funds

State chief information officers want the federal government to restore the amount of homeland security funding ? a portion of which can be used to meet requirements of the Real ID Act ? available to them in the president's proposed budget for fiscal 2008 to its fiscal 2007 level.

The costs associated with homeland security programs and the lack of sufficient funding to propel initiatives forward was one of the key issues that members of the National Association of State CIOs raised this week with members of Congress. The opportunity comes around once each year during their annual "DC Fly-In" that coincides with its midyear conference.

The goal of the Fly-In is to communicate state governments' needs and concerns to Congress. It also is a chance for state technology officials to reach out to federal agencies on matters that require collaboration.

Thirty-five state CIOs and deputy state CIOs participated on May 2 in as many as 60 informal meetings held at various sites to discuss a variety of issues, including cyber security, enterprise architecture, health IT and the Real ID Act, said Doug Robinson, the group's executive director.

The Homeland Security Department's state homeland security program provided $525 million to states, territories and local governments to develop homeland security-related programs in fiscal 2007, yet the president's 2008 budget request for the program is only $250 million, the state CIOs told members and their staffs.

States use the dollars from DHS' grants to develop or enhance cyber security plans and cyber risk mitigation plans, as well as conduct cyber risk and vulnerability assessments.

The Real ID Act of 2005 would standardize state-issued drivers' licenses nationwide to curb abuses and prevent illegal aliens from obtaining ID cards by using false information. Opposition groups charge this will result in a de-facto "national-ID card" and that the process itself is fraught with privacy risks.

Under current DHS guidelines, states are allowed to spend 20 percent of those funds to meet the requirement of the Real ID act. "This is a drop in a very large pond of [the cost of work that] will be done by the states" to comply with the Real ID act, said John Gillispie, NASCIO's vice president and Iowa's CIO.

The price tag for states to comply with the Real ID act mandates may reach $14 billion, according to government estimates. To comply, states must modify the processes in place for issuing driver's licenses as well as connect not only with other states but also with databases at the federal level that contain information used to establish or verify identity such as passport data.

The participants in a May 3 NASCIO panel on the state fiscal situation did not mince words when the topic of Real ID came up in discussion. "This is the daddy of all unfunded mandates," said Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association.

Scheppach expects states eventually may get anywhere from $1 billion to $3 billion for Real ID act work.

"It's massive data sharing, not only among state and locals, but also states and the federal government," said Bill Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, who also participated on the panel.

Comments on the Homeland Security Department's guidelines for the Real ID Act are due May 8.

The regulations are expected to generate a wealth of commentary, Gillispie said. For example, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has prepared about 60 pages of comment, he said.

"No one group will get this fixed," said Gillispie, referring to the various interests, ranging from state motor vehicle administrators to top DHS officials. He foresees interested parties will put "sustained pressure" on Congress to fix the regulatory and funding problems associated with the act.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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