According to this study, REAL-ID has not only been cheaper to implement than the states estimated, but also helpful in reducing fraud.
States are finding that implementation of the 2005 REAL ID Act is much easier and less expensive than previously thought, and is a significant factor in reducing fraud. In cases like Indiana, REAL ID has significantly improved customer satisfaction, resulting in that state receiving AAMVA’s “customer satisfaction” award of the year. This is not just a win-win for national and economic security, but a win (less expensive) -win (doable) -win (fraud reduction) -win (improved customer satisfaction) for federal and state governments as well as individuals.
Moreover, 11 states are already in full compliance, well ahead of the May 2011 deadline for the 18 benchmarks. Another eight are close behind. Some states, like Delaware and Maryland, have achieved REAL ID compliance within a year. Washington State refuses REAL ID compliance, but has already implemented the most difficult benchmarks.
Perhaps most astonishing is that from the cost numbers currently available, it looks like implementation of the 18 REAL ID benchmarks in all the states may end up costing somewhere between $350 million and $750 million, significantly less than the $1 billion projected by those still seeking to change the law.
Legal presence is being checked in all but two states, up 28 states from 2006. Only Washington and New Mexico still do not require legal presence to obtain a license, but Washington so significantly upgraded its license issuance in 2010 that the fraudulent attempts to garner licenses in that state are now significantly reduced. Every state is now checking Social Security numbers.
This might be the first government IT project ever that came in under initial cost estimates. Perhaps the reason is that the states did not want to implement REAL-ID in 2005, so they overstated the costs.
As to fraud reduction—I’m not so sure. As the difficulty of getting a fraudulent ID increases, so does its value. I think we’ll have to wait a while longer and see how criminals adapt.
EDITED TO ADD (2/11): CATO’s Jim Harper argues that this report does not show that implementing the national ID program envisioned in the national ID law is a cost-effective success. It only assesses compliance with certain DHS-invented “benchmarks” related to REAL ID, and does so in a way that skews the results.