The Department of Homeland Security delayed for the third time enactment of the 'Real ID' law by 21 months to January 2013.

Homeland Security officials said the deadline was extended because most states would not be able to meet all the federal requirements of the Real ID Act by May 11, partly because of the economic downturn and uncertainty about congressional action on a proposal to modify the law.

The law creates a national security standard for state-issued identification cards and driver's licenses to be used for federal purposes, like boarding a plane or entering federal buildings such as a courthouse. It aims to prevent terrorists from obtaining valid driver's licenses and ID cards.

The program was delayed first in May 2008 and again in December 2009. The second deadline tried to replace the law with a new program called Pass ID, which would have cost half as much, imposed fewer requirements and offered more federal grants. But the proposal died in the last session of Congress.