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Posted at 5:39 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011

More time to upgrade driver's licenses

By Bloomberg News

The U.S. Homeland Security Department is giving states an extra 20 months to upgrade their systems to improve the security of driver's licenses to better identify illegal immigrants and thwart possible terrorists.

The Real ID Act, which Congress passed in 2005, creates uniform requirements to make it harder to tamper with and counterfeit driver's licenses and identification cards. The law was created to discourage terrorists from operating in the U.S. Eighteen of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks obtained driver's licenses or identification cards that helped them rent cars and buy airplane tickets to carry out the plot.

Estimates of the program's cost ranged up to $11 billion over five years, according to a 2006 study by the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures and American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

"States have continued to experience trouble meeting the statutory requirements of the act," such as verifying identification documents, according to rules filed Friday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano with the Office of the Federal Register.

States now have until Jan. 15, 2013, to comply with the Real ID law.

Before President Barack Obama appointed her as head of the Homeland Security Department, Napolitano was governor of Arizona, where she signed a law prohibiting the implementation of Real ID in her state.

Tighter state budgets and uncertainty about whether Real ID requirements would be changed have left states unable to meet the program's terms by May 11, the previous compliance date, according to the filing. "DHS has worked very closely with the states to assist with implementation," awarding about $175 million in grants since 2008, according to the filing.

"This law has saddled the states with enormous costs and burdened citizens with the prospect of what effectively would be a national identification card," according to a statement today by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

Today's filing marks the second time Homeland Security has delayed the deadline for Real ID. The original date was May 11, 2008.

By Bloomberg News  | March 4, 2011; 5:39 PM ET
Categories:  Driving, Transportation News  
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Posted by: almaellis5 | March 5, 2011 3:48 AM | Report abuse

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