That didn’t take long, or did it?
Around the 2nd week of March this year, the GAO reported on problematic passport issuance at the State Department outlined in their Undercover Tests Reveal Significant Vulnerabilities in State’s Passport Issuance Process report. One undercover investigator applied and was issued four passports. I wrote about that in And These Are Genuine US Passports …
On April 13, the GAO released an update on their recent investigation on US passport vulnerabilities: Addressing Significant Vulnerabilities in the Department of State’s Passport Issuance Process. I wrote about that in US Passport Vulnerabilities: Knee-Jerk Variety Response? I thought then gee—somebody’s going to get grilled about this over at Capitol Hill.
On April 23, Alex M. Parker of govexec.com reported that Getting to the bottom of passport processing flaws proves thorny. He wrote:
The State Department’s management and union clashed this week over the root causes of passport processing mistakes revealed by the Government Accountability Office last month — but seemed to agree there were systemic problems in State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Colin Walle, president of National Federation of Federal Employees Local 1998, said the State Department was placing too much of the blame for the problems uncovered by GAO on human error. An approach of moving applications along without waiting for the results of Social Security Administration database checks and a workplace culture of “quantity over quality” are more to blame, Walle said.
“We’re getting fed up with how they’re handling this,” Walle said. “The employees are being scapegoated for the mistakes.”
The article cited Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant secretary for passport services at the State Department as saying that the suspension of the four specialists’ approval authority was not a disciplinary action, but an attempt at training and education.
Today, May 5, Ms. Brenda Sprague, the DAS for Passport Services gets to talk about “The Passport Issuance Process: Closing the Door to Fraud” at the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security [Tuesday, May 5, 2009, Dirksen Office Building Room 226, 2:30 p.m.]. She will be joined by Jess T. Ford, Director, International Affairs and Trade Team of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). We’ll be watching.
- GAO-09-583R: Addressing Significant Vulnerabilities in the Department of State’s Passport Issuance Process (Washington, D.C.: April 13, 2009)
- GAO-09-447: Department of State: Undercover Tests Reveal Significant Vulnerabilities in State’s Passport Issuance Process, (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 13, 2009).
- GAO-07-1006: Border Security: Security of New Passports and Visas Enhanced, but More Needs to Be Done to Prevent Their Fraudulent Use (Washington, D.C.: July 31, 2007)
- GAO-05-477: State Department: Improvements Needed to Strengthen U.S. Passport Fraud Detection Efforts, (Washington, D.C.: May 20, 2005)