Hill Awards Golden Fleece to State Department for Suspending the Processing of All Passport Applications
Washington, June 26, 2020
WASHINGTON D.C. — Rep. French Hill (AR-02) named the State Department as the latest recipient of the Golden Fleece Award for needlessly delaying more than 1.6 million passport applications.
"While the State Department was quick to respond to the coronavirus’ outbreak at the beginning of the year, it made the wrong decision to suspend the processing of passport applications. Other federal agencies, with similar responsibilities and workloads, continued to work remotely or socially distance in the office based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it’s preposterous that the State Department could not do the same,” said Rep. Hill. “A number of central Arkansans have contacted me over the past few weeks because they have received little to no communication about the status of their passport application. Given that applications for new passports and renewals take time, the State Department should have continued processing them during the past three months.”
In the letter to the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Rep. Hill wrote:
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
I write today to inform you that your agency is the most recent recipient of my Golden Fleece Award. I am awarding the Golden Fleece to the U.S. Department of State (State) for needlessly delaying more than 1.6 million passport applications.
Your agency rightly issued important travel notifications due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the early part of this year, however, I believe that is unacceptable that State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs suspended the processing of all passport applications. It’s ridiculous there were other agencies in the federal government that continued to conduct non-COVID-19 related work remotely or with proper social distancing guidelines in the office and that State could not do the same.
According to a briefing conducted by Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch, State began phase 1 of its resumption of passport processing on June 11, 2020. While I appreciate Assistant Secretary Risch’s commitment to processing “about 200,000 per week” I believe passport processing should have remained a non-COVID-19 priority of the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the size of this backlog could have been dramatically smaller if any at all had processing not been stopped.
Further, I have heard from numerous Arkansans over the past few weeks and months who were frustrated about a lack of communication from State on the status of their passport applications and when they can expect processing to be completed.
On a positive note, thank you for the Department’s outstanding work and focus in getting Americans home who were stuck abroad at the outbreak of COVID-19. Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns I raised, I urge you to notify us as soon as possible. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue.