LOS ANGELES—Editor's note: Click here to read the diary entries from the first 75 days of Catharine's passport saga.
You buy your air ticket and book the hotel for that overseas vacation. Oh no -- your passport is about to expire. With processing delays lasting months, will you get it in time? It can happen to anyone, even the experts. Los Angeles Times Travel Editor Catharine Hamm is caught in Passport Processing Limbo. Here is the latest entry from her diary:
July 24, 2007: One of the great lessons we learn from businesses is how they deal with mistakes.
In a recent story on JetBlue's February meltdown, Chuck Salter, writing in Fast Company magazine, outlined the airline's road to redemption: It admitted a problem, acknowledged responsibility and put plans in place to make sure it never happened again.
The State Department is only two for three in this department.
Last week, Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty said the passport backlog was her fault. For a time, I was cheered up. A government official who actually said "I did something wrong" is impressive. Wow.
But my spirits began to sink after re-reading Salter's "Lessons From the Tarmac." What's missing was the last critical piece of this bureaucratic mess: how it will get fixed and stay fixed.
The passport problem--an increase from 12 million issued last year to what will probably be 17 million this year--isn't going to get better, especially once the U.S. begins requiring those who drive and fly and sail across the border to have passports, not just those who fly.
Furthermore, Harty said she hoped to return by Sept. 30 to the six-week waiting period. That's what it used to be.
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) said, "I don't believe it."
He's not alone.
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