Skip to Highlights
Highlights

In July 2008, the Department of State (State) began issuing passport cards as a lower-cost alternative to passports for U.S. citizens to meet Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements. In October 2008, State began issuing the second generation border crossing card (BCC) based on the architecture of the passport card. GAO was asked to examine the effectiveness of the physical and electronic security features of the passport card and second generation BCC. This report addresses: (1) How effectively State's development process--including testing and evaluation--for the passport card and second generation BCC mitigates the risk of fraudulent use? (2) How are U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers using the cards' security features to prevent fraudulent use at land ports of entry? To conduct this work, GAO evaluated the security features of passport cards and second generation BCCs against international standards and guidance and results from testing and evaluation and observed the inspection of these cards at five land ports of entry (POE).

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State 1. To ensure the designs for the passport card and BCC physical security features adequately mitigate the risk of fraudulent use, and to improve the development process when conducting future redesigns or updates to the passport card or BCC, the Secretary of State should fully address any issues or problems encountered during testing, including the documentation of reasons for not addressing any of them.
Closed - Implemented
State concurred with this recommendation and in its comments to our report, stated that it created a permanent position for a Forensic Document Design and Integrity Coordinator to regularize procedures for testing and evaluation of all secure documents, including documenting results. In July 2011, State officials indicated that they are establishing a design process that will include the creation and approval of a formal action memo to record reasons for not addressing problems encountered. The memo will be approved by several State officials, including the Forensic Document Design and Integrity Coordinator. The process will be implemented when State considers new versions of its travel documents. In July 2014, State provided documentation of procedures they follow when they are designing and issuing new versions of passports cards, including roles and responsibilities. These procedures include procedures for ensuring that the physical security features mitigate the risk of fraud, as well as addressing issues found during testing and after issuance, including documenting reasons when the issues are not addressed. The procedures include ensuring that all security features are fully tested or evaluated prior to issuance. Due to this evidence, we are closing the recommendations as implemented.
Department of State 2. To ensure the designs for the passport card and BCC physical security features adequately mitigate the risk of fraudulent use, and to improve the development process when conducting future redesigns or updates to the passport card or BCC, the Secretary of State should fully test or evaluate the security features on the cards as they will be issued, including any significant changes made to the cards' physical construction, security features, or appearance during the development process.
Closed - Implemented
State concurred with this recommendation and in its comments to our report, stated that it created a permanent position for a Forensic Document Design and Integrity Coordinator to regularize procedures for testing and evaluation of all secure documents. In July 2011, State officials indicated they plan to implement a design process that will include testing of documents by an independent lab and physical security assessments by the Department of Homeland Security's Forensic Document Laboratory. In July 2011, State officials indicated that they are establishing a design process that will include the creation and approval of a formal action memo to record reasons for not addressing problems encountered. The memo will be approved by several State officials, including the Forensic Document Design and Integrity Coordinator. The process will be implemented when State considers new versions of its travel documents. In July 2014, State provided documentation of procedures they follow when they are designing and issuing new versions of passports cards, including roles and responsibilities. These procedures include procedures for ensuring that the physical security features mitigate the risk of fraud, as well as addressing issues found during testing and after issuance, including documenting reasons when the issues are not addressed. The procedures include ensuring that all security features are fully tested or evaluated prior to issuance. Due to this evidence, we are closing the recommendations as implemented.

Full Report