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Homeland Security rejects REAL ID extension requests for Kentucky and Oklahoma

By Steve Bittenbender
Editor, Government Security News

In the last two days the Department of Homeland Security rejected requests from officials in Kentucky and Oklahoma who sought extensions in order to comply with the REAL ID Act, and as a result, residents in those states may now be unable to enter certain federal government facilities.

Passed in 2005, the law, which came at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, establishes standards for personal identification materials, such as driver’s licenses. The Act has given states several years to comply with the regulations, which themselves were established in 2008. REAL ID-compliant forms of identification are currently required in order to visit military installations and other secure federal facilities, such as the DHS headquarters in Washington, that require visitors to present their identification.

The standard takes affect for domestic flights in January 2018. Residents in states that are not considered compliant will not be able to use their state-issued identification card or license in order to fly domestically and would be required to produce a secure form of identification, such as a passport, in order to be verified by Transportation Security Administration agents.

Officials in both states said they were disappointed in the decision.

“I'm disappointed the issue was not resolved by legislators this year,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin in a statement. “I will continue to work with state and federal lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to keep at a minimum any adverse effects to Oklahomans.”

Kentucky’s General Assembly pass a bill earlier this year that would have enabled the state to become compliant. However, Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed that bill after receiving calls against it from the public.

In a statement, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said it continues to make progress toward compliance. However, one issue facing the state is that it has 144 locations where such licenses and cards can be obtained. Meeting the federal regulations to secure each of those facilities has become a costly challenge, state officials said.

“All Kentuckians should be aware that the immediate impact of this decision will not be felt by the vast majority of Kentuckians,” said John-Mark Hack, Kentucky’s commissioner for the Department of Vehicle Regulation. “We can still use our driver licenses and state ID cards to visit the Social Security offices, Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, federal courthouses and to apply for federal benefits like Medicare.”

The most immediate impact for Kentucky could be residents’ access to military installations, including Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. While military and civilian personnel at those installations have compliant forms of identification, the state encouraged other residents to contact the posts to determine what they need for access.

Kentucky will revisit the issue in next year’s General Assembly session, state officials said. Bevin and transportation officials want lawmakers to pass a bill that will enable Kentuckians to choose whether they want a driver’s license or identification card that complies with REAL ID standards when they renew it. Other states, such as Vermont, give their residents such an option.

Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia are considered to be in compliance with REAL ID standards at least through Oct. 1, 2020. Kentucky and Oklahoma are among five states now considered noncompliant, according to a DHS Web page for REAL ID. In three other states – Minnesota, Missouri and Washington – DHS has found their driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards noncompliant.

The remaining states and territories are either still under review or have received an extension until next year to gain compliance. To find out the status of your state, DHS offers an interactive map where visitors can learn more by guiding their computer cursor over a selected state. Go to https://www.dhs.gov/real-id-enforcement-brief for more information.


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