U.S. Passports: made overseas, obscenely profitable


The Washington Times Post

recently ran a three-part series that calls into question one of the primary tools used in our "War on Terror", the new U.S. Passport. According to the W.T., U.S. passports are printed and assembled overseas in countries with highly questionable security and sold to us at a 600% markup.

The Government Printing Office (GPO), the government agency that handles most government printing needs, decided to outsource insertion of computer chip and radio-frequency i.d. technology into the newly redesigned passports, and fought the suggestion to limit bidders to domestic companies. The winning company, based in the Netherlands, now receives the passport blanks from the GPO, adds the computer chip, then ships them off to Thailand where the RFID antennas are added. Remember Thailand? Land of government instability nestled in the crook between India, Russia and China?

UPDATE: The GPO responds.

The new technology allows border guards to scan the passport and wirelessly access information encoded in the computer chip. Producing these new passports costs the GPO $7.97, which it marks up to $15 to sell to the State Department. The State Department then marks them up to $100 to sell to us.

I had to read the story twice to assure myself this wasn't a bit of Dave Berry Barry farce. How could the GPO think that Americans would stand for such a compromise to their security? Aren't there ANY American companies that can handle these? And why does our government charge us a markup of over 600% for an essential document?

If we care so little about the security of our passports, why not simply let Wal-Mart handle our passport business? I bet they could get the cost down to $9.99, or two for $15.

Thanks, Boing Boing