U.S. Sen. James Lankford on Monday joined a growing congressional chorus demanding that the U.S. State Department speed up the processing of passport applications.
“The current processing time for a routine passport or passport renewal application is 18-24 weeks — nearly four times longer than the typical processing time of 4-6 weeks in the fall of 2020,” Lankford said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I have heard from an unusually large number of constituents whose vacations, work trips, and honeymoons were cancelled due to these delays and did not receive adequate assistance from the Department of State, which is totally unacceptable.”
A week ago the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to Blinken complaining of the long delays. The State Department official in charge of passports acknowledged the problem, saying the agency had been overwhelmed by a combination of short staffing and an unusually high number of applications as travel restrictions are lifted.
Lankford, in his letter, indicates that technology failures by a third-party vendor may also be a problem.
Lankford and the State Department said the current backlog exceeds 2 million applications, compared to a 1.7 million backlog in the spring of 2020.
Officials say both are related to COVID-19 and the fact that passport applications must be processed at government facilities. Those were briefly closed last year, and many remain understaffed because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Lankford said most should be fully operational by now.
“In my view, nearly all of these sites should be operating at full capacity at this juncture unless the local COVID restrictions in their city of operation explicitly prohibit it,” Lankford wrote.
“With the worst of COVID-19 now behind us, these 26 centers should be serving the American people at full speed,” he said.
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