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DHS Inspector General: Real ID, What a Waste.

Chris Calabrese,
Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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March 26, 2009

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security issued a report earlier this week entitled "DHS Unable to Figure Out What It's Doing on Real ID; Unable to Provide Guidance to States." (PDF)

Alright that's not the exact title, but honestly, we think that's what they would have said if they weren't constrained to speak in federal bureaucratese. You can tell because what they did say was pretty scathing. Here are a few tidbits (with a little editorial clarification from us):

  • Page 13: "DHS did not provide timely and specific guidance on how REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and identification cards must be marked, best practices for the physical security of facilities, or information on the systems that will be used for verifying applicant documentation." DHS has no idea what the card will look like, how the systems will work or how we'll protect those systems.
  • Page 14: "Several of the systems needed do not yet exist." Oh, that's why there's no guidance.
  • Page 17: "[R]epresentatives from 17 of the 19 states we contacted indicated that they did not receive clear guidance on the REAL ID grant process." No danger of waste or misuse of funds here.
  • Page 18: "Unclear about the requirements, states reported that their grant submissions were incomplete and misdirected." Sounds like we've definitely got some waste!
  • Page 19: "The grant guidance stated that proposals would be reviewed and assessed by a FEMA peer review panel based on the strength of the submission and would be awarded on a competitive basis. …. However, the grants awarded in FY 2008 did not correspond to the panel rankings." And some misuse of funds.
  • Page 16: "Specifically, 18 of 19 states, or 95%, reported that available grant funding was insufficient. Several states referred to the amount received as a "drop in the bucket."" We're making you do something, but we're not telling you exactly what it is — and we're not paying for it either!

We'll say clearly what the Inspector General can't: Real ID is an enormous boondoggle. It was tacked on to a must-pass appropriations bill and snuck into law using procedural trickery. Not only does it create a National ID system and invade our privacy, it's a complete waste of money. Twenty-one states have already rejected Real ID, and Virginia is poised to become the 22nd. It's time for Congress to repeal Real ID before we waste any more money or do any more harm.

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