The fight between Montana and the Department of Homeland Security over Real ID requirements for driver's licenses appears to have intensified with the issuance of a letter by Governor Steve Bullock on January 17.Recently, the Department of Homeland Security sent its own letter warning that Montanans would soon have limited access to certain federal buildings and may not be able to fly in the near future if the state's driver's licenses were not brought to standard.

In response, Bullock sent the following letter, explaining his insistence on not adopting the Real ID standards:

January 17, 2014

Secretary Jeh Johnson
US Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528


Dear Secretary Johnson:

In 2007, Montana’s legislature voted unanimously to forbid implementation of REAL ID in the State of Montana.  All 150 members of the 60th Montana Legislature agreed that REAL ID implementation is “inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Montana, will cause unneeded expense and inconvenience to those people,” (House Bill 287) and raises serious questions of states’ rights.


In addition to the excessive cost of creating a national database, Montanans are appropriately concerned with the extensive collection of their personal and private information by the government.


In recent years, Montana has taken steps, independent of federal mandate, to further improve the quality of our Montana driver licenses and identification cards.  I have full confidence in the measures we have in place to ensure the security of our licenses, including, but not limited to:


  • Capturing and retaining facial images of applicants, even if a DL or ID is not issued;
  • Making every reasonable effort to ensure that an applicant does not have more than one DL or ID under a different identity;
  • Maintaining a secure DMV database;
  • Verifying lawful status;
  • Requiring the presentation of at least one source document to establish identity;
  • Training staff in recognition of fraudulent documents;
  • Verifying Social Security account numbers with SSOLV;
  • Including security features that are not capable of being reproduced using commonly available technology;
  • Ensuring the security of personally identifiable information;
  • Issuing licenses and identification cards that contain multiple integrated security features;
  • Controlling access to facilities and systems involved in the enrollment, manufacture, production and issuance of licenses and identification cards;
  • Ensuring physical security of locations where licenses and identification cards are produced and the security of document materials and papers used to produce licenses and identification cards;
  • Issuing DL/ ID cards for no more than eight-year periods;
  • Issuing DL/ID cards that contain: full legal name, date of birth, gender, unique DL/ID number, full facial digital photograph, mailing or residential address, signature, date of issuance, expiration date, and state or territory of issuance all on the face of the PDF-417 Machine Readable Zone of the card;
  • Requiring validation and verification of lawful status for renewals of limited-term DL/ID cards;
  • Requiring an updated photograph of all DL/ID holders at least every 16 years;
  • Prohibiting individuals from holding more than one Montana ID and one Montana DL.


As I did while serving as Montana’s Attorney General in 2009, I again ask that the department not take any steps that would penalize the ability of Montanans to use their secure, valid Montana driver license for federal identification purposes and commercial air travel.