GPO reassures your passport is secure

Thursday - 6/17/2010, 9:38am EDT

Steve LeBlanc, Managing Director, Security & Intelligent Documents, GPO

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

You may have heard something in the media recently about "Security of US Passports Called Into Question" or "US Passport Security Endangered".

The Government Printing Office says the reports aren't entirely accurate.

Steve LeBlanc, Managing Director for Security & Intelligent Documents at the GPO, told Federal News Radio not to lose sight of one thing: "I don't want to lose the fact that this very secure travel document is manufactured right here in the United States by government workers in government facilities under total government control."

A report by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity said that key components for e-Passports are made in Thailand and that the Thai site poses a potential long-term risk to U.S. interests.

LeBlanc pointed out that many, many components are used to make the United States passport.

One component in particular was assembled in Thailand by a subcontractor, but those operations have been moved from that location to Minnesota. Right now over 80% of the components are inlaid in Minnesota and by the end of the summer 100% of that operation, that basically supplies that component for us in the United States passport, will be made in the United States. It's a good story. the GPO worked very hard with our contractors to move those operations from overseas to U.S. soil.

Not only has there been no security breach in the electronic passport supply chain, the issue of outsourcing the production of U.S. passports is inaccurate, said LeBlanc.

It's absolutely not outsourcing. I will tell you and make it as clear as I can: the United States passport is printed, it's assembled, it's manufactured, it's shipped right here in the United States at two secured government facilities: one here in D.C. and one down in Mississippi. Now there was a component that we were being provided by one of our contractors from an overseas location and of course that's the chip and antenna inlay. Now that operation has been moved from Thailand to Minnesota and that move will be complete later this summer. This is not an outsourced product by any means. I will tell you that Americans, federal workers with proper security and background investigations are the only ones who come in contact with that passport to do its final assembly and integrity check.

Besides, the chips in question aren't even made in Thailand, said LeBlanc. "The chips are manufactured other overseas locations by contractors who successfully performed in our procurement back in 2004 and I will say that there were no U.S. firms that produced the 14443 ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) required chip technology that were able to compete and perform adequately for the United States to use that technology in our passport."

The GPO, said LeBlanc is "going through a brand new procurement" to find new partners or work with the same ones to see what new solutions the contracting community comes up with.