Testimony: Clock ticking on Real ID compliance

States will have four more months to request additional time to implement the Real ID Act national identity management program, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a Senate committee this week.

States originally were given an Oct. 1, 2007, deadline to request an extension of the time in which to implement the act. The deadline for such requests has been pushed to February 2008, Chertoff told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Sept. 10.

DHS moved back the deadline because it anticipates moving back enrollment deadlines to the end of 2009 if states ask to do so, Chertoff said.

Under the Real ID Act of 2005, states must conform to new national guidelines on collecting, verifying, storing and publishing personal information for driver's licenses, and sharing such information with other states. The Homeland Security Department expects to issue final rules to states in October.

The Real ID Act presents one of the largest contracting opportunities for identity management systems, with anticipated production of more than 200 million ID cards along with readers, enrollment centers and supporting IT systems. States are expected to spend $11 billion over five years on Real ID compliance.

Chertoff said that DHS' initial plan was to have people begin to sign up for licenses that conform to the Real ID standards by spring 2007. "But we've indicated that we anticipate extending that to the end of 2009 upon a request and indication that states want to move forward and do that," he said.

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) suggested that by issuing the final rule in October, DHS is not giving states enough time to meet deadlines. He said that publishing the final rule in October, and having that same month as the deadline for states to file for an extension for implementation, doesn't seem to give the states enough time to assess the scope, cost and changes that are necessary for compliance with implementation.

"How are you going to address that administrative train wreck?" Sununu asked Chertoff at the hearing.

DHS has always intended to be reasonable in granting extensions for Real ID, and the February 2008 deadline would give states time to adjust, Chertoff responded.

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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