Real ID price tag for states could top $11b

A report released this week by several state government leadership organizations pegs the cost of implementing the Real ID Act of 2005 at more than $11 billion over the first five years.

The report was culled from a survey conducted by the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

The act creates national standards for issuing and content of state drivers licenses and identification cards. Among its most costly requirements is that states likely will be required to re-issue identification documents to all 245 million current holders within five years.

States also would need to establish onsite identification and verification procedures at the source of issuance, and meet security and production requirements for the new card.

Data from 47 jurisdictions that took part in the survey indicates that the costs to implement Real ID would be broken up into a one-time, calculable expense of nearly $1 billion, and ongoing costs of more than $10.1 billion for the first five years.

The report also points to additional costs. Citizens will need more time and expend more effort to get new identity documents. Also, each applicant will need three to four identity documents, and each of those need independent verification.

More than 80 million transactions will be performed annually, more than doubling processing time in most states. The wait for new ID cards in some areas could increase as much as 200 percent.

All of which raises an important issue, said William Pound, NCSL executive director: 'The $11 billion question is, who's going to pay for it?'

State officials have said previously that it would be impossible for them all to be in compliance with the Real ID Act by May 2008 as required. Among the recommendations state leaders outlined in the report are to extend the deadline, though no new proposed date was given.

Other recommendations made in the report are:
  • Provide the funds necessary for states to comply with Real ID.
  • Provide the federal electronic verification systems necessary to comply with the law.
  • Require states to employ electronic verification systems only as they become available.
  • Implement a 10-year re-enrollment schedule.
  • Adopt uniform naming conventions to facilitate electronic verification between files.
  • Allow reciprocity for person already vetted by the federal government.
  • Establish card security criteria based on performance ' not technology.
  • Grant the Homeland Security Secretary the flexibility to recognize innovation at the state level.

Ethan Butterfield is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

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