MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Starting a year from today, if you want to fly in the U.S., you will have to show a Real ID when you go through security screening. Now, Real ID is essentially an enhanced driver's license. Many people do not yet have them. Some states are just now issuing them. And with a year to go before this deadline, federal officials are worried. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Congress approved the REAL ID Act in 2005 to address concerns of the 9/11 Commission, which found that it was too easy for people to obtain driver's licenses, which posed a security risk. To get a Real ID, you typically need to show a birth certificate or green card, Social Security card and two documents that show your address. A study done for the U.S. Travel Association shows only 3 out of 4 Americans have gotten a Real ID driver's license.
Erik Hansen, a vice president with U.S. Travel, says that's going to be a problem for would-be airline passengers next year.
ERIK HANSEN: Unfortunately, it means they're going to learn the hard way what - the Department of Homeland Security has said is that if you don't have one of the compliant identifications - either a Real ID or one of the alternatives, like a passport - you're actually going to be turned away at the checkpoint, and you're not going to be allowed to board your flight. So that could have a real impact on people's personal lives and the flow of commerce, but could also have a real impact on the economy, as well, from people staying home and not spending money in travel businesses.
NAYLOR: Hansen says an estimated 78,000 people could possibly be turned away on the first day of the new requirement at an estimated cost to the economy of $40 million in lost travel-related spending. As he noted, there are alternative forms of ID that are acceptable, including passports and military IDs. But at a recent hearing, Republican Senator Roger Wicker says that's not really going to help.
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ROGER WICKER: I think we need to heighten awareness about this. Most people don't have a passport, and most people are not in the military or veterans. So it's going to be that driver's license, 9 times out of 10.
NAYLOR: At that hearing, acting TSA Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell said her agency is doing everything it can to get the word out about the upcoming deadline, but it's complicated.
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PATRICIA COGSWELL: There's a combination of people whose licenses are still valid but also individuals who are in states who issue both Real ID and non-Real-ID-compliant licenses today. So they may be renewing their license not fully understanding that they are getting a non-Real-ID-compliant license.
NAYLOR: Real ID has been fought by many states that objected to the new law, saying it's a form of national ID and too expensive to implement. And Congress has extended the deadline to give them a chance to comply in the past.
Hansen at U.S. Travel is not expecting TSA is going to move the deadline again, but he says there are things the government could do.
HANSEN: I think, realistically, we just can't solve this by trying to send 182 million Americans to the DMV within the next year. I think Congress can take steps, as well, to modernize the REAL ID Act, allow travelers who are in precheck to go through the checkpoint regardless of whether they have the Real ID and actually modernize the system so we're not just racing to catch up with the past.
NAYLOR: The TSA has put up signs and is verbally warning travelers of the looming deadline. You can tell if your driver's license is compliant if it has a star in the upper right-hand corner.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio, as in an earlier Web version of this report, we incorrectly say that a study shows three out of four Americans have gotten a REAL ID driver’s license. In fact, the study shows that about three out of four believe they have not gotten a REAL ID license. Also, in the Web version, references to the star that will be on driver’s licenses have been clarified. Most REAL ID driver’s licenses will have such stars. But a handful of states will issue licenses that are REAL ID compliant but do not have stars.]
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