Homeland Security chief vows to move forward with ID law

BOSTON -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a group of state lawmakers gathered here on Wednesday that he would not retreat from a plan to impose nationwide standards for driver's licenses.

Chertoff acknowledged at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures that it will be a challenge for states to implement the so-called REAL ID Act, especially if they are not given more federal funding to do so. But he said he would not support legislative efforts to repeal the controversial law and insisted that insecure travel documents in the hands of terrorists are dangerous.

"I frankly will not support pulling the plug on this," Chertoff said.

Several states across the country already have decided not to comply with the law. The Homeland Security Department still has not issued final compliance regulations, but it has estimated that it will cost states about $23 billion to implement the mandate.

Chertoff said one of the reasons it has taken his department so long to issue guidelines is because it has been working to address state-level concerns about cost and privacy. But when asked if he thought Congress needs to fix some of the law's weaknesses through additional legislation, Chertoff said that the country can not afford for the REAL ID plan to be derailed.

"Anyone who believes the current system [of issuing licenses] is secure is kidding themselves," he said.

In recent months, states also have been acting independently on the immigration front. According to a report released by NCSL earlier this week, 170 immigration bills have been enacted so far this year in 41 states.

Chertoff lamented the demise of federal immigration legislation in the U.S. Senate this summer, which he said he hoped would have provided funds for the "back office" of the REAL ID plan. Attempts by senators to include additional REAL ID funding in the homeland security spending measure for fiscal 2008, which passed the Senate last month, also were defeated.

In a separate speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., touted recent efforts by Congress to bolster homeland security. She lauded the passage of legislation to implement the remaining recommendations of the panel that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks. The law, among other things, contains stringent requirements for screening cargo on ships and airplanes. It also directs funding to improve the emergency communications infrastructure used by first responders.

"Never again will the efforts of our courageous first responders be hampered by an inability to communicate in real time," she said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.