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DARMSTADT, Germany — Starting July 1, Department of Defense identification cardholders will pay twice as much to register their cars in Germany.

Personal vehicle registration will increase to $30 to offset the cost of new German license plates, even in places where the plates might not be available for years, according to USAREUR spokesman Bruce Anderson.

The new plates, which are being phased in as a force protection measure, identify American-owned personal vehicles as German to help them blend in.

But the cost of the new plates — and a decision to spread that cost out over time — could delay the date that they’ll be universally available until as late as 2010.

The initial target date was December 2007.

The plates carried on most American-owned personal cars in Germany still identify the vehicles as American.

“I don’t like that it’s a U.S. plate,” said Amy Boyer, a civilian from Lincoln Village in Darmstadt, Germany, who was getting a new license plate Thursday at Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne. “People look at us different.”

The $30 fee will cover only a fraction of the cost registration offices have to pay for the German plates. It will take three registrations at this price to pay for one of the new German plates, Anderson said.

The “D” (for Deutschland) plates cost so much more because the actual registration of the plate is being purchased through German municipalities, he said.

Germans have to pay on average 200 euros a year for registering a vehicle, officials say.

An even higher fee could allow the plates to be available to all personnel and their families more quickly.

But USAREUR officials thought it would be unfair to burden people with the full cost of the transition all at once.

They weighed force protection against the program’s effect on the wallets of junior troops, Anderson said.

Vehicle registration fees paid by Department of Defense personnel in some states in the U.S. far exceed the higher fee that will soon hit wallets in Germany.

“We’re trying to operate the USAREUR license branch at cost,” said Joe Garvey, deputy chief of public affairs at USA- REUR.

The vehicle registration office in Mannheim began issuing the German plates in January. The office in Heidelberg followed by issuing them in February.

At that time, USAREUR officials expected the plates to be fully phased in across Germany within two years.

That date was pushed back after USAREUR completed an analysis of the costs associated with dispensing the new plates and realized it would have to raise the registration fee to offset those costs.

Rather than force U.S. personnel in Germany to pay the increased cost upfront, USAREUR plans to spread the cost over the next few years.

It wouldn’t make sense to have a few people pay the whole cost of the new plates, Garvey said.

Once vehicle registration offices in Germany have an adequate supply of the new plates, the fee could drop again, Anderson said.

The new plates will be produced by the Army, as are the plates with the “USA” designation.

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