Implementing REAL ID: Less Expensive, Doable, and Helpful in Reducing Fraud

By CIS on January 12, 2011

WASHINGTON (January 12, 2011) – By May 2011, all states must be in compliance with the first 18 security benchmarks of the federal secure driver's license law known as the REAL ID Act. REAL ID was prompted by the fact that the 9/11 hijackers acquired a total of 30 state-issued IDs and driver's licenses in order to embed themselves here (and board airplanes).

The Center for Immigration Studies has published a review of the current state of REAL ID: "REAL ID Implementation: Less Expensive, Doable, and Helpful in Reducing Fraud" was prepared by Janice Kephart, a former 9/11 Commission counsel and currently the Center's National Security Policy Director. The paper is online at Among the findings:

  • REAL ID has proven easier and less expensive to implement than previously believed. Using actual state budget numbers, total one-time costs to implement REAL ID’s 18 security benchmarks, for all states combined, could be as low as $350 million and not likely to exceed $750 million.

  • These numbers are significantly less than the one-time costs of at least $1 billion that the National Governors Association (NGA), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) claimed in 2006.

  • Eleven states are already fully compliant with REAL ID's 18 security benchmarks, ahead of the May 2011 deadline. Another eight states are close behind.

  • The legal presence of applicants is being checked in all but two states, up 28 states from 2006. Every state is now checking Social Security numbers.

  • Some states were able to achieve full compliance in less than a year, and other state costs came in significantly below the projections which have been used for years to denigrate REAL ID’s feasibility.

  • Compliant states are finding REAL ID to be helpful in reducing fraud by criminals and illegal aliens shopping for the easiest driver's license issuance rules. Motor vehicle departments using REAL ID standards are also increasing criminal investigations of those who have traditionally used driver's license systems to commit identity theft and operate illegally under multiple identities.

  • Regulatory proposals from the NGA, NCSL, and AAMVA, slated for an upcoming lobbying campaign, incorporate language from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s failed 2009 PASS ID Act, which sought to repeal much of REAL ID.

  • Secretary Napolitano in November 2010 ordered an internal review with the goal of using the regulatory process to change REAL ID requirements after the failure of PASS ID.

The paper also includes a chart listing for every state the current status of implementation, federal grant monies issued to date, and costs of compliance, where available.