DHS May Be Lessening Real ID Regulations

Media reports indicate that the agency is cutting back on some technology requirements and deadlines.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is among only a few of his peers to come out in support of the Bush administration's push for strict guidelines for state drivers' licenses, and is facing strong opposition in his plan to implement Real ID in the Empire State.

However, after publicly praising Spitzer's plan as proactive, it turns out he Department of Homeland Security may actually be lessening its demands on states to comply with Real ID.

Fighting its own opposition from state officials against Real ID, DHS may cut back on some of the technology requirements and extend the original deadline for states to comply with the act and, according to a Nov. 4 article in The Washington Post, which cited officials familiar with the new policy.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has championed New York's efforts to comply with Real ID, saying it is evidence that the tide against the Bush administration's proposal is lessening. However, the plan may be faltering.

The Washington Post reported that DHS policy official Richard C. Barth has suggested to state officials that the cost to implement Real ID—a sore point for states, which are looking at a bevy of technology upgrades—would plummet by billions of dollars. The reason, according to the article, is that DHS is both cutting back on its mandate that the Real ID licenses be renewed every five years, as well as on its more allusive technology requirement that states develop document verification systems.

"There are a lot of issues of how [states] are supposed to do anything. How do you really verify a birth certificate? What does verification mean?" said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

DHS is also apparently considering changing the deadline for states to comply. The agency initially said it would waive states' May 2008 deadline by five years, setting a new date of 2013. Now, according to The Washington Post, DHS may extend the original deadline by a decade, to 2018, for drivers older than 40 or 50. The rational behind segmenting requirements by age is to lessen the load—and mitigate costs—of a surge of customers at state motor vehicle departments clamoring for the new license that lets them do basic things like enter a federal building or board an airplane.

Under Real ID, citizens wishing to enter a federal building, nuclear facility or board a commercial airplane must have a Real ID license.