WASHINGTON, January 20, 2016 —
Editor's Note: This article has been amended to reflect the availability of optional REAL ID-compliant cards in Washington and Minnesota.
Defense Department installations will no longer accept driver’s licenses from Illinois, Missouri and New Mexico as proof of identity for access control purposes, according to DoD officials. Non-enhanced licenses from Minnesota or Washington also are no longer accepted, the officials said. The driver's licenses remain valid for driving purposes, the officials noted.
The ban, which also includes licenses from American Samoa, is a consequence of the REAL ID Act of 2005.
The REAL ID Act grew out of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- most of the terrorists involved had driver’s licenses from Florida and Virginia. Congress tightened up issuance processes and documentation needed to get a driver’s license. Compliant cards must have specific security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication of the document. The licenses also must present data in a common, machine-readable format.
The REAL ID Act affects only access control policies where individuals are required to present an identification document for accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants or boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. The federal REAL ID Act implementation rules allow for exceptions, officials noted. For example, they explained, life or safety issues such as medical emergencies, and situations in which physical access is necessary to apply for benefits are two exceptions.
Those attempting to gain physical access to DoD installations must show an alternate form of identification, such as a passport, officials said. Service members, family members, DoD employees, and federal employees with the DoD common access card, DoD uniformed services identification and privileges cards, federal personal identification verification cards or transportation workers’ identification credentials are not affected, officials said, as these cards are authorized in DoD policy to facilitate physical access to installations.
“All federal agencies, including DoD, must comply with the law regarding the use of REAL IDs for official purposes,” an official said. “For most DoD installations, an identification card or an installation pass is required to facilitate access. Hence, where an ID or an installation pass is used for physical access, DoD installations are prohibited from accepting driver’s licenses or state identification cards from states deemed non-REAL ID compliant."
“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.”
Minnesota, Washington Offer Opt-In
For an extra fee, the states of Minnesota and Washington allow residents to opt-in to obtain driver's licenses and state identification cards that are compliant with the REAL ID Act. However, officials said, those states also continue to offer "non-enhanced" licenses that are not acceptable forms of identification for access control purposes. "Enhanced Driver's License" or "Enhanced Identification Card" is printed on the front of the compliant cards, which also bear a small image of the American flag.