Continuing Resolution to Fund the National ID

If as expected Congress passes a continuing resolution in coming weeks to fund the government into December, take note of how neatly our elected officials are side-stepping responsibility for government spending. The votes that should have come in the summer ahead of the election, giving them some electoral salience, will happen in December, after you’ve made your “choice.”

But let’s home in on another way that the failed appropriations process undercuts fiscal rectitude and freedom. A “CR” will almost certainly continue funding for implementation of the REAL ID Act, the federal national ID program.

From 2008 to 2011, direct funding for REAL ID was included in the DHS appropriations bills, typically at the level of $50 million per fiscal year. That process was evidently too transparent, so from 2011 on appropriators have folded REAL ID funding into the “State Homeland Security Grant Program” (SHSGP). That’s a $400 million discretionary fund. Combining the SHSGP with other funds, there’s a nearly $700 million pool of money for DHS to tap into in order to build a national ID.

REAL ID is a national ID system, despite its’ advocates consistent denials. Passed in 2005, the REAL ID Act is designed to coerce states into adopting uniform federal standards for driver’s licenses and non-driver IDs. (Oklahoma is a current battleground. To push the state legislature, Department of Homeland Security bureaucrats are threatening to refuse the state’s driver’s license at military bases.) Compliance also requires states to share drivers’ personal data and copies of their digitally scanned documents with departments of motor vehicles across the country through a nationwide data sharing system.

If fully implemented, REAL ID would be a de facto national ID card administered by states for DHS. The back-end database system the law requires would expose data about drivers and copies of basic documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards, to hacking risks and access by corrupt DMV employees anywhere in the country. Based on recent hacking scandals in Louisiana and elsewhere, the risk is real—and Congress will soon vote to continue funding it.