Management of the Department of State Office of Passport Services Needs To Be Improved

ID-81-39: Published: Aug 6, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 6, 1981.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reviewed the Department of State's Office of Passport Services, the Travel Document Issuance System (TDIS), the Passport Files Miniaturization (PFM) system, passport records storage, passport fraud programs, special handling fees, and the Passport Lookout System. The objective of the review was to evaluate the effectiveness of these functions within the Department.

TDIS, the Department's new computerized system for issuing passports, is plagued by deficient planning. TDIS will cost between $12 to $15 million over the next 4 years, and management needs to take on more comprehensive planning. The PFM system is another problem area that has presented difficulties to the passport management staff. Because of technical complications within the system, operational performance troubles, and inadequate management attention to the new file system, a severe backlog of work has developed, clogging the system with over 2 million passport applications. Still another related records management problem is the storage of original passport records. Costing over $200,000 each year, the Department has over 140 million passport documents in storage. One of the most severe problems facing the Department is that of passport fraud. Although the Department discovered 1,002 cases of passport fraud in fiscal year 1980, it has been presumed that this is just the tip of the iceberg. GAO identified two operational areas of concern that are performed as daily passport functions: (1) the inequitable provision for the special handling of passports that require fast delivery because of urgent departure dates or because of requests by passport applicants; and (2) the operation of the Passport Lookout System, a system that is used to screen passport applications for administrative, law enforcement, and national security purposes. GAO believes that the system is basically sound but is experiencing a number of difficulties.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish an improved system of assuring that wanted Federal felons, individuals with applicable court ordered restrictions, and others are denied passports as required by law.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish a formal agreement with the various components of the Department of Justice to establish firm jurisdictional responsibility for the investigation of passport fraud.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should adjust the retention schedule for disposable passport records that have been microfilmed from 15 years to the validity period of a passport.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should adjust the retention schedule from 100 years to 15 years for disposable passport records originating from 1925 to the first half of 1978.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should initiate a project to separate permanent records from disposable passport records.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct that periodic inspections of the passport files miniaturization system be performed and inspection logs be maintained by Foreign Affairs Information Center.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should reestablish and clarify specific responsibility for passport records matters, including oversight of the passport files miniaturization system by the Foreign Affairs Information Center.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  8. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should correct the passport files miniaturization system's programming and data entry.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  9. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct that a technical team be formed to review the passport files miniaturization system to identify and correct design, operational, and technical problems that are impairing the system's efficiency.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  10. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should develop and implement a plan, when appropriate, to issue the new Travel Document Issuance System type passports for the Honolulu agency, the insular offices, and the overseas foreign service posts.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  11. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should use the methodology provided by the 1977 Arthur D. Little, Inc., study on passport markets to continually review the geographic sources of potential market growth so that workloads can be maintained at appropriate levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  12. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should examine the possibility of entering into an agreement with the Postmaster General to investigate passport fraud cases using U.S. mails.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  13. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should begin passport fraud seminars for passport agents at insular offices.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  14. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should conduct more frequent or extended fraud seminars and related training for outside acceptance facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  15. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct foreign service posts and insular offices to consistently and properly use the computerized Lookout or Circular Post Lookout Files.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  16. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should send the three insular offices which do not have the equipment to screen applications through the computerized Lookout copies and updates of the Circular Post Lookout File.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  17. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should assign specific responsibility for the administration of both the computerized Lookout and Circular Post Lookout File to one office.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  18. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should purge unnecessary names from the Lookout database by effective annual reviews of the Lookout system.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  19. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should initiate a task force composed of Department personnel associated with computer, communication, and passport functions to comprehensively evaluate the adequacy of equipment, communication lines, and code identifiers of the Lookout computer system.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  20. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should amend passport application instructions to require special handling fees when special mailing services are either requested or required by the applicant.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  21. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should implement recommendations in the Department's passport fraud report of June 3, 1980.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  22. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should improve fraud statistical reporting from foreign service posts and passport agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  23. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should send fraud bulletins to foreign service posts and insular offices regularly.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  24. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should provide more timely and complete feedback to adjudicators on individual cases of suspected fraud.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  25. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should restructure the system to use one standard design at a reduced number of passport processing centers.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 28, 2016

Sep 27, 2016

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 20, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Aug 31, 2016

Aug 25, 2016

Aug 15, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here