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Lankford Takes Action to Fix Historic Passport Backlog

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –Senator James Lankford (R-OK) along with Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) announced plans to introduce legislation to address the eight-month delay for a passport due to a passport backlog of more than 3 million by making major improvements to passport processing at the Department of State.

“Oklahomans shouldn’t have to face months-long delays because the State Department isn’t processing passports quickly enough,” said Lankford. “My office regularly hears from families who are forced to miss out on visiting loved ones orcancel 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.”

“A few years ago, Nebraskans were calling their representatives a couple of times a month with passport delays. For that number to now be in the hundreds is unacceptable,” Ricketts said.“American taxpayers deserve better than cancelling trips or missing opportunities to visit family because of bureaucracy failures. The State Department needs to address the failing systems in place and solve this problem swiftly. I’m proud to join Senator Lankford on these solutions to improve the current backlog and prevent backlogs from reaching these levels in the future.”

This legislation builds on Lankford’s years-long effort to improve passport processing time. InJune 2020, after initially announcing the discovery of a major backlog on May 28, Lankford sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask why passport applications had not been completed since March 19, 2020—despite continuing to accept paid fees. After Lankford’s inquiry, then-Secretary Pompeo made Passport Services “Mission Critical,” which helped ease some of the backlog, putting the agency on a path to success.

However, once the Biden Administration took over, processing times began to lag far behind pre-pandemic levels, primarily due to State Department staff not operating at 100 percent capacity and the failure to fully reopen passport offices to the public. Lankford sent a letter demanding action when the problem worsened in 2021, and he sounded the alarm again in 2023.

Lankford’s bill would address the current delays by:

  • Examining the failures of the last four years that caused the current backlog.
  • Establishing a 12-week processing time requirement and refuse any remote work requests until the timeline can be met.
  • Requiring procedures to avoid processing backlogs in the case of future national emergencies.
  • Developing a reserve workforce that can be reassigned to support Passport Services during high demand.
  • Improving the online status tool to provide more information to applicants.
  • Adding a chat feature to National Passport Information Center (NPIC) call line.
  • Initiating investigation into the quality of customer service, wait times, and technology failures of NPIC.
  • Expanding in-person appointments at regional passport offices.