While the COVID-19 pandemic pushed much of the Federal government to telework, a delay in IT Modernization efforts left the Passport Services Directorate forced to work in a paper-based environment during the pandemic, a new report from the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found.

In reviewing the Passport Services Directorate (CA/PPT) – helmed within the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs – the OIG found that CA/PPT’s dependence on the Office of Consular Systems and Technology to manage its IT modernization projects delayed the Online Passport Renewal and Next Generation Passport Systems.

“At the time of the inspection, little progress had been made in implementing the priority Online Passport Renewal and Next Generation Passport systems projects,” OIG wrote in its report. “OIG found that the FY 2020-2022 Passport Services’ Strategic Plan outlined objectives for these systems that were essentially unchanged from plans going back to FY 2010, underscoring that virtually no progress had been achieved on these initiatives during the past decade.”

This lack of progress left CA/PPT unable to effectively transition to telework like many of its Federal government counterparts and exacerbated the effect the pandemic had on CA/PPT’s operations.

The pandemic significantly affected the CA/PPT, both in operations and funding. Limitations on in-office work saw just over 13,000 passport issuances in May 2020 – down from nearly 1.8 million in May 2019 – and a decrease in funding from $852 million to $646 million for fiscal year 2021, according to the OIG.

OIG made three recommendations, all of which the Bureau of Consular Affairs concurred with. OIG recommended that the Bureau of Consular Affairs should implement:

  • “Project management processes for the Passport Services Directorate’s information technology modernization projects in accordance with Department standards;
  • Procedures to regularly update the content of the Passport Services Directorate’s SharePoint site; and
  • A process to store the Passport Services Directorate’s archived advisory opinions, so they are easily searchable and retrievable in accordance with Department standards.”

With the concurrence of the Bureau of Consular Affairs on each of the recommendations, OIG considers the recommendations resolved and will close them once receive and accept documentation proving that each of these recommendations has been fulfilled.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.