Enforcement of the REAL ID program is set to begin May 3, 2023, which establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.
Enforcement of the REAL ID program is set to begin May 3, 2023, which establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. (Photo Credit: Department of Homeland Security photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT KNOX, Ky. – Following an extension due to the pandemic, enforcement of the REAL ID program is set to begin May 3, 2023. However, state officials say all Department of Defense-issued identification cards -- to include military IDs -- will be accepted even after that date.

REAL IDs are a new version of state-issued identification cards, such as driver’s licenses, that will be required to access federal installations and facilities and board a federally regulated commercial aircraft.

Retired Brig. Gen. Steven Bullard serves as the executive director of the Kentucky Commission of Military Affairs. He said state residents planning to procure a REAL ID need to keep three things in mind:

“Make an appointment, be prepared and have all the documents you need.”

Examples of REAL IDs, which are easily recognized by definitive markings in the upper top portion of the ID cards.
Examples of REAL IDs, which are easily recognized by definitive markings in the upper top portion of the ID cards. (Photo Credit: Department of Homeland Security photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

REAL IDs are clearly defined by a star marking in the upper top portion of the card. Without the marking, the card is not considered REAL ID-compliant. According to Bullard, any person who plans to come to Fort Knox or any other installation will be required to present a REAL ID with the appropriate marking after the new deadline.

“The major concern we have is access for [civilians] who want to come on to the post and still need to have a valid ID that the guards can verify,” said Bullard. “We need to get the word out in the communities: if you’re a civilian that uses any facilities on the military installation, you absolutely need to get a REAL ID.”

The Fort Knox website states if a person does not have a REAL ID or other acceptable alternative -- such as a DOD ID or U.S. passport – they will need a second form of identity to enter the installation.

A full list of the additional types that can be used in conjunction with a state driver’s license can be found HERE.

Bullard explained that while civilians will need to have a REAL ID in order to access military installations and board domestic flights, members of the military community are exempt from the REAL ID requirement.

“You’ve already got a REAL ID if you’re military, and for retirees and dependents as well,” said Bullard. “If it’s DOD-issued, it qualifies.”

This means DOD cards can also be used in place of a REAL ID at airport security, according to the Department of Homeland Security website. The site warns, however, that neither government-issued IDs nor REAL IDs can be used when flying internationally or driving across borders to Canada or Mexico. Passports will still be required in those cases.

Bullard also pointed out the state of Kentucky recently passed a piece of legislation that directly affects Soldiers, something he himself recently discovered.

“I was alerted to this late fall [2020],” said Bullard, “so I notified the governor’s office and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and we determined to work with the legislature to ‘fix’ it.”

The “it” Bullard was referring to: Soldiers are currently required to obtain a Kentucky driver’s license rather than keep the one from their home state of record. In March, however, the bill eliminating that requirement unanimously passed both the state Senate and House.

That new legislation goes into effect June 29.

As long as military members, dependents and retirees hold a valid DOD-issued ID and driver’s license from their home state of record, Bullard said they have all the identification they’ll need within the United States.

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Editor’s note: The REAL ID Act was enacted by Congress in 2005 following the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. For more information on obtaining a REAL ID in the state of Kentucky, visit drive.ky.gov.