The Department of Homeland Security said it will extend until 2011 the Jan. 1 deadline for implementing toughened drivers’ licenses and identification card security standards mandated by the REAL ID Act of 2005.

“In order to ensure that the millions of Americans traveling this holiday season are not disrupted, DHS is extending the Dec. 31 REAL ID material compliance deadline,” DHS Deputy Press Secretary Matt Chandler said in a statement. “The May 10, 2011, deadline for full compliance remains in effect, and the Department will continue to work closely with states to meet this deadline.”

The Jan. 1 deadline would have required the more secure drivers’ licenses to board airplanes and gain entrance to federal buildings.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier this month declined to extend the deadline to give Congress time to consider alternative legislation known as PASS ID that would be less costly, burdensome and controversial to implement, according to the agency.

However, Congress has not passed the legislation.

“As expected, a large majority of states and territories — 46 of 56 — have informed DHS that they will not be able to meet the Dec. 31 REAL ID material compliance deadline,” Chandler said.

Officials in 18 states have said they intend to ignore the law and have passed resolutions banning its implementation, claiming they can’t afford the “unfunded federal mandate.”

During testimony at a Senate Committee on Dec. 2, Napolitano answered a question on the deadline asked by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who has expressed concern that if the REAL ID deadline is enforced it could cause serious disruptions of New Year’s Day travel.