A reader posted a comment about how her long-awaited trip to Scotland is likely going to get screwed up this summer thanks to the incompetence of the people at the State Department. In her comment she included a link to an article in today’s Los Angeles Times that, if accurate, will be totally dispiriting to anyone with a trip coming up who is waiting for a passport.

At the Los Angeles passport office, more than 150 people began lining up at 4 a.m. Tuesday, hoping to pick up their passports that had been promised them weeks before. The office, which is in the Federal Building in Westwood, provides last-minute passports for travelers living in the southern section of California and portions of Nevada.
Many of them had a flight within a day or two and couldn’t get through to anyone at the State Department either by phone or e-mail even though many had applied at least 12 weeks ago. Some who did get through were told that their passport had been express mailed to them a week earlier, only to be told later that it actually hadn’t left the building and was unlikely to get to them in time.

What a great government we have. First you can’t get through to them, then when you do finally get through, they give you faulty information.
Here’s the part of the article that really caught my eye:

The State Department estimates that it will process more than 17 million passports this year, a 40% increase from 2006, as new rules requiring passports for flights to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda are contributing to the record number of applications.
The agency said it has added 200 employees, recalled retirees with past passport experience and opened a new processing center in Arkansas.

Okay, let’s figure this out. The State Department estimates an additional 17 million passports and so hires an additional 200 people. If you divide the number of new hires (200) into the number of estimated additional passports requiring processing, you find that these 200 people would each have to process 85,000 passports to deal with the additional demand for which they’ve been hired. If these people worked 16 hours per day 365 days per year they each would have to process about 15 passports per hour to get the 17 million dealt with within a year. But they ain’t gonna work 20 16 hours per day, nor are they going to work 365 days per year. How in God’s name did the idiots at the State Department think that hiring a mere 200 people to deal with the extra number of passports they themselves estimated would accomplish anything?
This is what I mean about government incompetence.
Remember the Jet Blue fiasco several months ago. There were some canceled flights and scheduling snafus and a few planes that stayed out on the tarmac for a few extra hours. At most, the whole debacle inconvenienced a few thousand people. The CEO issued a public apology and had it printed in full page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers. He assured passengers that it wouldn’t happen again and sent free vouchers to those who got caught up in the mess. What did the government do during all this. A few members of congress got in a little grandstanding time by talking about how the government should regulate the airlines more heavily to insure that incidents such as this one don’t occur in the future. The government is always good about pointing the finger at others who under perform, and the recommended solution is always more government regulation.
What is the State Department going to do about this totally outrageous situation? Where are all the politicians threatening to sanction the State Department? This meltdown has cost more people more money and more grief than a thousand Jet Blue incidents, yet who is going to step up and make it right? Who is going to pay for all the non-refundable flights that people will lose out on? Who is going to take any responsibility whatsoever.
Aside from hiring the totally inadequate extra 200 people, what else are the dolts who are responsible for this situation doing about it?

All of its 18 passport offices are working overtime, and it even has had senior officials handle telephone calls after the end of their workday.

Well, la tee da! The State Department has even had it’s senior officials handle telephone calls after the end of their workday. I guess that’s why no one can get through. Do these morons think that this will even begin to make a dent in the extra 17 million passports that they knew were coming?
This is government incompetence at its very worst. And these are the same folks who want to bring you nationalized health care. And the movement is gathering momentum among the non-thinkers out there (i.e., the majority of the population). We should be very worried.


  1. And to think – some people want to put the government in charge of our medical care. Would the government then come around to visit and make sure we are eating a diet that is low fat and at least 70% carb?

  2. Apparently the government has gotten a lot of complaints and they’re now suspending the requirement that passport be in-hand to re-enter the US…a receipt you’ve applied, along with the old rules birth certificate or driver’s license will suffice to get you back into the United States.
    Feds to Suspend Border Passport Rule

  3. I heard reported this morning(6/8) on my local news radio station that the gov’t is relaxing its policy on passports for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Carribbean. Sorry to say, however, that no such deal is being made for travel to Europe and Asia.

  4. 17 million additional passports at at least $100 each is $1.7 billion. You certainly could hire more than 200 extra employees with that additional income.
    Makes sense, which is probably why it wasn’t done. 

  5. The whole passport thing is so the government can take in more money. Seventeen million times the cost of a passport is quite a bit of money. Of course the government will waste it somewhere.

  6. Unbelievable that they would change the policy at this juncture. The damage has already been done, hasn’t it? So now we’re to believe there was no reason for it…no real national security issue at hand. If there were, why do they so casually drop the requirement?
    Still waiting for my passport filed for in mid-February so we can continue our adoption paperwork…

  7. Thank heavens the Immigration bill just went down in flames. We would have been counting on the Feds to enforce the penalties of that, too.
    Just proves that every now and then there is an outbreak of good sense. 

  8. Well now, few people despise the inherent inefficiency and harm of authoritarian government more than I, but in this case your math is off, a bit.
    They were expecting 17 million passports, a “forty percent increase”, and added 200 people, not counting retirees. That means the retirees could, to reasonably simplify, need to process forty percent of seventeen million (6.8 million, I think).
    That means that they could work 8 hours per day, 365 days per year, and have to process almost 12 per hour.
    Of course they don’t work 365 days per year…they get more days off than any actual, productive members of society in the private sector, and if they’re like the Federal agencies I worked with as a consultant in DC, they also are lucky if they get in 6 hours of “work” per day, not counting how inefficient they are within that 6 hours, thanks to meetings, daily progress reports, and other bureaucratic nitwittery.
    And, actually, one would HOPE (if we accept the premise of the need for this kind of security, which is arguable) that they take more than 5 minutes per passport (12 per hour), anyway. I mean, this is National Security, they’re saving us from the million new terrorists that Bush created by invading Iraq.
    Of course almost all of the 9-11 attackers (members of Al Qaeda, who considered Saddam Hussein a mortal enemy) had legitimate passports/visas into the US, so in reality all this does is inconvenience 6.8 million additional law-abiding people (and bring the Federal government a billion dollars in fees), establishing a more authoritarian government without even gaining more temporary safety for the liberty lost.
    But, anyway, your math was way off. And then you said “20 hours” instead of “16 hours”, when you summed up later in the paragraph.

  9. This reminds me of the days poor soviet citizens had to wait in line to receive an old piece of disgusting bread to eat.
    We’re lucky the government isn’t in the business of distributing food yet.

  10. Re Em on Health Care: You speak as if the government doesn’t already have its paws all over health care….
    It could be a lot more heavy handed, let me tell you. 

  11. I think what this means is don’t elect people who don’t believe in government. If they don’t believe you get Katrina’s everywhere you look. Why get upset about passports? That is nothing compared with not funding biometric driver licenses. These people are not serious about doing a good job.

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