It was a pleasure to welcome Secretary Kerry to our Passport Agency in Washington, D.C., on July 12, where he took the opportunity to highlight the surge in U.S. passport applications and introduce the Department’s innovations in expanding and modernizing services to U.S. citizens, all under the new banner of “MissionOne.”
The State Department’s top priority is and always has been to provide the best service we possibly can every day to the American people. And that is true whether our citizens are here in the United States or traveling overseas.
In order to assist and protect the ever-increasing number of U.S. citizens traveling overseas, not only does the Department of State issue U.S. passports -– the world’s premier travel document-– but we are also available 24/7 to assist U.S. citizens if things go wrong, from a lost passport to a medical emergency to a crisis in the country where they are.
Consular services continue to expand every year, and are growing at record numbers. Roughly two in five U.S. citizens -– 130 million people -– hold a U.S. passport. The Department is experiencing a surge of applications for both first-time passports and renewals, so travelers should apply early if they are planning a trip.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve our assistance to U.S. citizens traveling, living, and working overseas. MissionOne has inspired us to creatively improve what we have to offer. As a result, we developed new programs that expand and modernize our service to U.S. citizens.
We will roll out the first phase by the end of 2016. It includes enhancements to the ways we support our U.S. citizens overseas through a network of volunteers and expanded information on local resources.
Our American Liaison Network (ALN) is a reinvention of our previous consular ‘warden’ system, a network of individuals who volunteer to facilitate communication between the U.S. embassy or consulate and the U.S. citizen community. (We borrowed the term ‘warden’ from the air raid wardens who guarded the coast and alerted the public to danger during World War II.) The ALN expands the ways consular officers communicate with ‘wardens,’ now known as Consular Liaison Volunteers (CLVs), and places greater emphasis on CLVs as sources of feedback. CLVs will work with our embassies and consulates to identify and proactively communicate the needs of the U.S. citizen community. They will engage with our embassies and consulates to address security, safety, and health issues that affect U.S. citizens.
Our Local Resources Initiative identifies gaps in locally-available essential resources for U.S. citizens at our embassies and consulates overseas, including domestic abuse shelters, crisis counseling, medical facilities, and more. Our embassies and consulates are working with local organizations, NGOs, international groups, and businesses to identify existing organizations that can fill these gaps.
In the next phase of MissionOne, we will launch online renewal of U.S. passports and the Next Generation passport project in 2017.
In his first speech as Secretary of State in 2013, Secretary Kerry said, “the real domestic constituency for what we do, if people can see the dots connected and understand what we’re doing in its full measure, is really large. It’s the 314 million U.S. citizens whose lives are better every day because of what we do.”
I am proud that we continue to deliver our services in the most effective, efficient, and innovative ways.
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