The Washington Post reports on the significant backlog of passport applications:
The demand soared at the beginning of the year, as travelers sought to comply with a new rule requiring passports for all U.S. citizens flying within the Western Hemisphere.
And that demand has created a backlog of about 500,000 applications that have been pending for more than 12 weeks, spawning complaints by travelers who saw their trips in jeopardy. It also highlighted once again how post-Sept. 11 laws ripple from Capitol Hill across the country.
To ease the strain, the requirement was modified June 8, allowing those who have applied for, but not received, passports to reenter using other documents.
Harty's "not happy" with processing times, which are running from 10 to 12 weeks, instead of the usual six to eight. "The notion of customer service is a sacred part of what we do, and part of a long and very proud tradition," she said...
Travelers can go to http://www.travel.state.gov and print out proof of their application. Entry rules to countries vary, however, and travelers may also look up those requirements on the Web site.
I think people are starting to become aware of the problem. That's good, because not having a passport has become a major impediment to travel abroad.
And Government Executive says that things aren't likely to get better in the near future. That's because next year you'll need a passport for land and sea travel to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean:
The State Department may be overwhelmed trying to process the new applications that have rolled in due to regulations requiring passports for air travel to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean, but the Homeland Security Department says that shouldn't tempt Congress to delay rules scheduled to go into effect starting next year that also would require passports for land and sea travel to these destinations. A growing move in Congress to delay the land and sea requirement "is just simply not acceptable to us," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke tells USA Today. Right now, he notes, border agents have to examine up to 8,000 different forms of identification that people can present when trying to get into the country.
More info here as well.