GPO set to open second passport printing facility

The Government Printing Office is getting ready to open the doors to its second passport printing facility, which officials say will help boost production and allow printing to continue if something happened to the agency’s Washington, D.C., facility.

The new passport printing center is expected to cost about $40 million and come online this spring, will be in the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi  between Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans. GPO, which has printed blank passports for the State Department since the 1920s, was asked by State to open a printing facility outside Washington.

“In conjunction with our main facility in Washington, this new operation will help meet the growing need for passports and satisfy the security requirements of the post 9-11 world,” GPO’s Public Printer Robert Tapella said in a statement.

Officials said the space center was a good site because of its high level of security.

Stephen LeBlanc, GPO’s managing director of Security and Intelligent Documents, noted that the NASA base is home to 30 agencies and the new GPO facility will basically be surrounded by 15 miles of security.

GPO is in the process of hiring 50 employees to work there, with a majority of them from the local labor market, in addition to several employees who agreed to move from Washington.

LeBlanc said that in addition to providing a backup production facility for continuity-of-operations planning the facility will also boost production capability overall. He added that the government had recovered from last year’s passport request backlog that was spurred by the new requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative for U.S. citizens traveling abroad.

GPO says it plans to print 20 million passports in fiscal 2008, consistent with the 20 million it printed in 2007. It printed 13 million in fiscal 2006.

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Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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