Published April 28, 2016
Defense Department bases no longer will accept driver’s licenses from five states as proof of ID -- a consequence of the implementation of a controversial post-9/11 law.
The decision, which affects residents of Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington, was announced Wednesday. Residents from those five states, going forward, will need another form of ID such as a passport to enter.
The move marks one of the first big changes after the government started to implement a 2005 security law known as the REAL ID Act. The legislation was meant to tighten standards for government-issued IDs – like driver’s licenses – and banned federal agencies from accepting IDs that don’t measure up.
Washington D.C. delayed full implementation for years, but the Department of Homeland Security is now pressuring states into compliance.
Currently, DHS is only enforcing the legislation for access to military bases, most federal facilities and nuclear power plants -- but will eventually extend the ID requirements for air travel as well. Only 23 states are in compliance with the law, but many others have been granted exemptions until later this year.
However, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington were denied an extension beyond Jan. 10, making them officially non-compliant. Minnesota’s exemption expired in 2015.
A DoD official said in a statement released Wednesday that DoD installations are now prohibited from accepting driver’s licenses or state ID cards from non-compliant states.
However, the official noted that the requirement could be waived in certain situations.
“DoD policy allows commanders to waive the DoD access control requirements for special situations, circumstances, or emergencies,” the official said. “Therefore, installations may authorize other alternatives to facilitate installation access, such as a graduation ceremony guest list, escorts, etc.”
The legislation has faced opposition from both Democrats and Republicans due to privacy and cost concerns, and fears that it represents the first step toward a national ID system.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced earlier this month that airline passengers from states not compliant with the law will be unable to board a flight using a driver’s license as of Jan. 22, 2018, and urged state lawmakers to ramp up their compliance efforts.
“I urge state government leaders to take immediate action to comply with the REAL ID Act, to ensure the continued ability of their residents to fly unimpeded. It is time to move toward final compliance with this law,” Johnson said.