Homeland Security starts writing checks but states are still frsutrated
By Zack Martin, Editor
Real ID came out of the 9/11 Commission recommendations suggesting states should do more to identify individuals applying for driver license and state IDs. This was in response to the fact that some of the 9/11 hijackers were able to obtain multiple driver licenses from different states.
To say the law is controversial is an understatement. The 2005 legislation is the new boogeyman. Some say it’s the first stop toward a national ID and eventually a police state where every citizen will have to present his or her “papers” on demand. Others say it’s a long overdue initiative to repair holes in a flawed system.
Many or most states, which have to implement new policies and procedures to comply with the law, don’t like it either and call it an unfunded mandate. They say billions of dollars will have to be spent in order to comply and what the federal government is giving them isn’t enough.
Some states disagree with the law so strongly they have passed laws saying they won’t comply. Arizona is the latest state to pass a law and at least 12 others have already done so.
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed a bill saying they won’t meet the requirements of the law. Napolitano’s biggest issue is the cost of Real ID. She cited a White House estimate that Real ID would cost at least $4 billion to implement. But thus far, she said, the federal government has only appropriated $90 million to help Arizona and other states comply with the measure.
Maine is another state that has passed a law saying it won’t comply with Real ID. The state did, however, accept a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to improve its driver license security.
Maine Gov. John Baldacci told the Bangor Daily News that just because the state took the money doesn’t mean it’s going to comply with the law. “This is not Real ID. The description of the program says specifically that you do not have to be Real ID-compliant to access the funds. Everybody needs to read the details and see that this keeps us in conformity to the law [of Maine] and to the prior law.”
While publicly states may complain about Real ID, those in the motor vehicle departments know the recommendations make sense and need to be implemented, says Jeremy Grant, senior vice president and identity solutions analyst at the Stanford Group Company. “Do you want to be known as the state with the weakest licenses?” he asks.
Politically it might not make sense either, Grant says. Imagine the campaign ads depicting an individual against Real ID and the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. States are making noise so they can get the funds to make the necessary changes. “Everything we see shows states making the necessary security changes to their licenses,” Grant says.
And Homeland Security is starting to send some checks. The agency has announced $79 million in Real ID grants.
Verification hub seen by supporters as essential, detractors as ominous
Missouri was awarded $17 million to lead the development of the verification hub. This hub will be used as a central router to provide verification to motor vehicle departments of an applicant’s source documents. States will be able to verify the identity, lawful status and Social Security number of an applicant through this common interface. Four other states – Florida, Indiana, Nevada, and Wisconsin – were awarded $1.2 million to partner with Missouri for verification hub testing and implementation.
The Silver Spring, Md.-based National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems has been working with Homeland Security on the hub, says Garland Land, executive director at NAPHSIS. This has been a challenge because so many of the breeder documents, birth certificates, are still on paper. Also, there is no standard format for birth certificates and it’s difficult to tell if it’s authentic by looking at it.
The hub is a Web application where a DMV employee enters certain information from a birth certificate. This information is sent to he issuing state and it comes back with a match or no match within a few seconds, Land says. One of the initial concerns from states was that many of these records weren’t available electronically. Over the past few years, states have remedied that.
NAPHSIS already has been working with several state DMVs, the U.S. State Department’s Passport Office and the Social Security Administration on testing the system for the past few years, Land says.
Read the full story about Maine’s grant here.