State Department Failed to Plan for Passport Increase (Rep. Ed Royce)

The State Department has had the responsibility of issuing passports since 1789. 2007 hasn't been one of its better years. In my district office Patty Shay, who has worked for me since I entered Congress, has helped hundreds of my constituents grapple with the new passport rules. We have helped churches with mission trips, soccer teams playing in Sweden, honeymoons, births, deaths and of course, vacations. The most frustrating thing for our constituents is that they've done what the government has asked them to do: they applied early and followed the guidelines, yet the government, for some reason, wasn't ready. This despite the fact that the State Department had two years to plan for this expected increase.

The State Department, as part of its strategy to address this demand has assigned about 300 junior officials to eight week stints of passport duty. One of these individuals told the Washington Post dismissively, that "they were looking forward to doing something high-priority." I'll chalk that up to inexperience. While this work may not seem attractive to some, it is high-priority. Many Americans have already paid a price in time, energy and money. Moreover, passports are the gold-standard of identity documents, and a passport in the wrong hands could have deadly consequences.

The massive influx of passport applications and the demands on the Bureau of Consular Affairs to get them to Americans as fast as possible does raise passport fraud concerns. Indeed, in Senate testimony last month, Assistant Secretary Harty referred to Consular Affairs as "a service organization." As I understand it, while the number of adjudicators has gone up, the number of Diplomatic Security Agents charged with investigating passport fraud, has not.

With the huge influx of passport applications, it is important that our anti-passport fraud efforts not be hampered. That is why I will soon introduce legislation that would expand the choice of venue available when prosecuting passport fraud, ensuring that it is aggressively prosecuted.