The Associated Press reports that budget problems may mean that Maryland will delay implementation of the federal REAL ID program. “I think it’s unlikely we’ll do anything this year, and it’s going to be a tremendous burden on this state,” Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee said at a hearing Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
In May 2005, the REAL ID Act was appended to a bill providing tsunami relief and military appropriations and passed with little debate and no hearings. The Act mandates that state driver’s licenses and ID cards follow federal technical standards and verification procedures issued by the Department of Homeland Security, standards that even the federal government cannot meet.
The REAL ID system (pdf) also enables tracking, surveillance, and profiling of the American public through the proposed interlinking of the motor vehicle databases of all 56 states and territories, the use of an unencrypted machine-readable zone on the state ID cards and driver’s licenses, and the ability for the system to be used for much more than the few purposes set out by the 2005 law.
States are rebelling against the national ID program. In July, Louisiana became the 21st state to pass anti-REAL ID legislation and the 11th state to prohibit implementation of or funds to be spent on the national identification program. Some states have pointed to the high cost. The National Conference of State Legislatures’ has estimated that REAL ID could cost states $11 billion over five years.
According to the Associated Press, “Real ID is expected to cost Maryland $30 million to implement. The federal government has given the state $1.1 million, with another $700,000 coming this fiscal year,” a massive shortfall.
Notably, new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed a bill to reject the REAL ID program last year in her capacity as Arizona governor. Napolitano pointed to the lack of adequate federal funding, calling Real ID “just another unfunded federal mandate.”
Last fall, President Bush signed H.R. 2638, a budget bill that funds federal agencies though March. The bill includes a provision granting $100 million for state implementation of the REAL ID system (on top of the $79 million in grants the Department of Homeland Security gave to states for implementation of the REAL ID Act in June). That is far below even Homeland Security’s estimate of the cost: In the final regulations, DHS claims the cost of implementation for the REAL ID national identification system would be $9.9 billion.
Beyond the cost of implementation of the REAL ID system, there is the real cost (pdf) to national security and civil liberties. I believe the REAL ID system creates a fundamentally flawed national identification system and the Act should be repealed.