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GAO urges overhaul of passport processing

July 26, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The State Department insisted that it could handle the growing demand for passports, despite congressional investigators' findings Friday that the agency has not overhauled the system to avoid repeating last year's backlog fiasco.

The Government Accountability Office reported that State had no "comprehensive, long-term strategy" to modernize the passport process.

Lawmakers had requested an investigation into the backlog that swamped passport offices last year in the spring and summer, the result of an unprecedented 18 million applications. The high demand was caused in part by new U.S. travel rules requiring a passport for air travel from Canada and Mexico. Next year, the rules will require passports or passport cards for ground travel as well.

The department "needs to rethink its entire end-to-end passport issuance process," according to the investigators.

State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the department had improved passport delivery and no similar backlog existed this year.

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