Diplomatic and Official Passport Retrieval Systems

ID-80-17: Published: Feb 26, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 1980.

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A Senator requested an examination of executive branch procedures for retrieving passports issued to agency officials. The examination included: the kinds of passports issued by the U.S. Office of Passport Services; the criteria for issuing each type of passport; and the procedures and practices followed by each selected agency for securing, controlling, and retrieving passports required for its officials. Agencies included in the examination were the Federal Maritime Commission and the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Commerce, and State.

U.S. Government officials whose duties require travel to foreign countries are issued either official or diplomatic passports, depending on their positions or the nature of their duties. Both types of passports are the property of the U.S. Government and are to be returned to the Government upon demand, which is required when employment is terminated or the passport is no longer needed. The passport control and retrieval systems in the five agencies revealed varying degrees of effectiveness. The Maritime Commission had no system of control and retrieval. USDA had a reasonably effective system and while a test check disclosed that approximately 80 percent of the passports were retrieved when employees left the agency, the Department was lax in returning passports for cancellation. HUD had an ineffective system with passport disposition being unknown for 55 percent of the employees leaving the agency. The system of Commerce's International Trade Administration was reasonably effective with 92 percent of the passports being retrieved, but the test check was unable to determine passport disposition for other Commerce offices. State had an ineffective system with GAO being unable to determine passport disposition for 60 percent of employees checked.

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