Fort Bragg and Fort Bliss said Wednesday that it no longer accepts driver’s licenses from five states as valid proof of identity for visitors seeking to enter the Army installation.
Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington state have been ruled out of compliance with the 2005 Act, a federal anti-terrorism measure intended to improve the security of state-issued licenses and IDs.
“Driver’s licenses and ID cards issued by these states cannot be used to access not just Fort Bragg, but all federal facilities, to include other military installations,” Tom McCollum, a Fort Bragg spokesman, said in a news release.
Visitors from the five states can use U.S. passports, military IDs and other federal ID cards to enter Fort Bragg. Other bases may be banning IDs from those states as well.
The Department of Homeland Security announced January 8th, that whatever state-issued identification is in your wallet will suffice until 2018 to get past airport security. Most observers had assumed that 2016 would be the year that the federal government finally played hardball regarding , the program intended to tighten security standards for state-issued identification. Instead, after years of kicking the proverbial can down the proverbial road, Homeland Security decided to kick just a little farther.
It turned out that travelers wouldn’t need to worry about until Jan. 22, 2018 at the earliest.
Andrew Meehan, policy director of Washington nonprofit Keeping Identities Safe, who has tracked the issue for several years, was surprised at the announcement. But it also made sense to him that Homeland Security wouldn’t want to take on the issue.
“They don’t want to deal with it, don’t want bad press and have their own priorities,” Meehan said.
The truth is that at this point, few people seem to want to deal with .
Congress passed the law in 2005, following a 9/11 Commission recommendation to take steps that would make it tougher to counterfeit government-issued IDs. The standards include verifying an applicant’s identity and conducting background checks on the state workers who issue driver’s licenses.
However, taking such steps comes at a cost to each state that’s well into the millions of dollars. Twenty-three states have become compliant with . But elsewhere, opposition has been strong, and even included former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who argued that the law should be overturned. Several states have also opposed , whether claiming federal overreach (Minnesota, Louisiana) or poverty (Illinois).
Twenty-seven states and territories that are not compliant with , but that have shown willingness to eventually comply, have been granted extensions. Six other states and territories — Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and American Samoa — are considered noncompliant, and do not have extensions. Residents of those places were the biggest winners with the announcement of the 2018 deadline; the thought was that they might face additional security screening or else need passports to fly by as soon as this summer.
So the can has been kicked. But what if those states still aren’t in compliance by 2018?
There are several possible outcomes. One is that those states might become compliant. For instance, a bill aimed at compliance with stalled in the Illinois state assembly in 2015. If legislators sense that the new deadline is serious, that bill could be resurrected.
Another option could be a change of heart on the matter of an extension from Homeland Security. The six states and territories could still be granted extensions lasting until Oct. 1, 2020. Or, anyone who lives in a state that isn’t compliant with can simply use alternate forms of ID to board an airplane, such as a passport, passport card or Global Entry card. Whether their state embraces wouldn’t matter (even if needing a passport to fly domestically might be a hassle).
In the meantime, Homeland Security has pledged to increase communication with the traveling public about the matter of , including signs and handouts at airports by the end of the year.
Meehan predicted that 2016 will be a bellwether year on , as state legislators decide whether to embrace the law and a new president signals whether enacting it will be a priority. Under President Obama, Homeland Security clearly hasn’t been interested in the fight.
“The silver lining of all the recent discussion about is that editorial boards and state legislatures are finally taking a closer look,” Meehan said.
We have another couple of years to ignore compliance. But one way or another, the bill is going to come due.
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