Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., plans to introduce new legislation that would address the State Department’s passport applications backlog that now stands at over three million, giving the agency more support in its efforts to trim down the backlog.

In a June 29 press release, the senator said his planned legislation would address the current eight-month delay for a passport by establishing a 12-week processing time requirement, and refusing any employee telework requests until that timeline can be met.

“Oklahomans shouldn’t have to face months-long delays because the State Department isn’t processing passports quickly enough,” said Sen. Lankford. “My office regularly hears from families who are forced to miss out on visiting loved ones or cancel vacations they saved for years to take due to the massive backlog.”

“This has been a problem since 2020 that I have pushed the Department of State to resolve. This bill is designed to address the root cause of the breakdown and provide straightforward solutions to fix the current backlog and prevent it from reaching historic levels again,” he added.

The senator’s bill would also examine the failures of the last few years that caused the current backlog and require procedures to avoid processing backlogs in the case of future national emergencies.

Additionally, it would develop a reserve workforce that can be reassigned to support Passport Services during periods of high demand.

The legislation would also aim to improve the online status tool for passports, add a chat feature to the National Passport Information Center (NPIC) call line, and expand in-person appointments at regional passport offices.

Finally, Sen. Lankford said the legislation would initiate an “investigation into the quality of customer service, wait times, and technology failures of NPIC.”

The legislation comes after the State Department said it is on track to set the record for the highest demand year ever in passport applications, surpassing volumes seen during previous surges in demand in 2007 and 2017. During some weeks this winter, the agency said it “received more than 500,000 applications, the highest number ever for this time of year, exceeding our official projections.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.