States Seek Funding Help for Real ID Technology

The Senate rejects $300 million in aid to help states meet the requirements of the DHS program by 2010.

States hoping for federal help to comply with the governments Real ID Act will have to find other funding sources to pay for the technology.

The Senate on July 26 shot down an amendment that would have earmarked $300 million a year to help states pay for the technology requirements needed to comply with the federal act by 2008—or 2010, given some individual state extensions.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was killed when a motion to table it passed 49-45. Under the Real ID Act, any state that doesnt ante up to implement and connect its Real ID database to other states could lose federal funding.

While the actual regulations and technical specs have yet to be handed down by DHS (Department of Homeland Security)—theyre expected between late August and late September—the expectations are widely understood: States will be required to implement systems and databases to electronically and securely capture, store and share a raft of citizen documentation that prove identity, lawful status, date of birth and Social Security number.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about the DHSs proposed regulations for the Real ID Act.

Each state must be able to share its motor vehicle database with all other states and the database must include, at minimum, all the information printed on the state drivers license, plus the drivers history, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions and any points on the drivers license. RFID tag—to store the electronic data that will be shared with other states.

Alexanders sought $300 million a year to help states. While DHS has said it will kick in 20 percent of a states Homeland Security Grant Program funds for Real ID compliance, the amount—even coupled with the rejected $300 million—is paltry compared to the $23.1 billion DHS estimates it will cost states to comply with Real ID.

"It is possible that some governor may look at this [Real ID] and say, Wait a minute, who are these people in Washington telling us what to do with our drivers licenses and making us pay for them too? We will just use our own licenses for certifying drivers, and Congress can create its own ID card for people who want to fly and do other federal things," Alexander said in a 2005 address to Congress. "We have just assumed that every single state will want to ante up, turn its drivers license examiners into CIA agents, and pay hundreds of millions of dollars to do an almost impossible task over the next three years."

He has said in hearings that in light of terrorist activities, despite the costs, the United States needs more secure documentation. Others, like the American Civil Liberties Union, are against Real ID altogether—not because of the potentially onerous costs to states to implement technology, but because the machine-readable technology mandated by the federal government poses a "serious privacy threat" to every U.S. citizen.

Next Page: The ACLU believes the Real ID Act is doomed.