Guinea Pig for 80/20 Rule – Passport Applications Processing?


    The U.S Government around Jan 2007, required citizens travelling to Mexico, Canada and the Carribean have a U.S Passport.

    This brought in a huge record number of passport applications and the passport application backlog grew and grew! During the middle of the year, the wait times were sometimes 8 weeks to 12 weeks frustrating a lot of travellers who had planned vacations or had to travel on business.

    In July 2007, the Passport Backlog Reduction Act was signed into law.

    Towards October 2007, the State Department announced that the processing time is back to about Six weeks or so. Expedited passports in three weeks.

    The State Department did this by hiring a lot of retired State department officials and retired Passport Processors to bring down the backlog. Still makes you wonder, why Six weeks, why not three weeks? Why not two?

    Post September 2001, the concern for additional checks on people who apply for passports is understandable but still Six weeks? I was wondering whether use of 80/20 rule could have significantly brought down the average processing time by an order of magnitude for a majority of applicants?

    I am sure it could have. If in addition to hiring additional people to do the same processing of the applications, the State Department had thought of separating the 80% of applicants that may not have anything bad like a criminal record on an entry in the known terrorists’ database and speeding up their passport applications, they could have achieved this.

    One of the reasons the passport office is careful about children’s passport applications is abductions to foreign countries by parents in disputed custody in divorce cases. I am sure that this is what brings down the 95% of simple clean passport applications down to may be 80%.

    The other 20% cases can engage the passport processors in more detailed checks if the computer system marks them as deserving closer looks!

    Given the state of the art in Business Rules engines, I am positive automated separation of "Straight Cases" from ’"Closer Scrutuny" cases could have been made possible with these solutions!

    With Criminal Databases as well as Automated databases that store information about suspected terrorists, I am sure that automated checking of passport applications and separating the "Closer Scrutiny" cases would have been easy!

    Process improvement does not need to come from just adding additional hands. It can come with some innovative thinking. May be they are already on to it, perhaps!

    Triage – the determination of priorities for action in an emergency. –


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