Investigate the delay

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The federal government did the right thing in delaying implementation of new passport requirements for travelers not previously required to have passports until the government can catch up with a backlog of requests.

Still, the fact that the U.S. State Department couldn't implement a measure put into effect for national security is disturbing. The expansion of restrictions for travelers has been planned for some time. What would happen if emergency restrictions needed to be put in place quickly? They apparently couldn't be.

Rules put into effect this year require people flying to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport. Previously travelers to those locations from the U.S. did not need a passport. Rules are scheduled to go into effect next year will require people to have a passport when they drive in and out of Canada and Mexico.

Under the relaxed rules, until the end of September, travelers will be allowed to fly without a passport if they present a State Department receipt, showing they had applied for a passport, and government-issued identification, such as a driver's license.

Homeland Security signed off on the proposal after consultations with the State Department, the White House and members of Congress, who have been deluged with calls from angry constituents seeking help with their passports.

It may be the only practical solution for the short run, but we need answers as to why this has been such a problem.