If you ask the old timers about how they got started in Debian they'll tell you about sending off an email saying they wanted to get involved and having an account setup the same day. By the time I got round to joining it was during tbm's blitz when NM opened up again and it took only a few days to get through the process. When I first AMed, back in 2002, it took anywhere from a few days to a few months to process an applicant. I've recently started AMing again and so far my NM and I have exchanged 9 mails over the course of 2 weeks and still aren't through Philosophy and Procedures.
This isn't due to any failing on the part of my NM. It's just that there's a lot more "paperwork" to get through these days. There's currently a lot of discussion going on about the idea of introducing new classes of Debian involvement. I think that's something that's definitely worth looking at; it's already in existence for Debian Maintainers vs Debian Developers. However anything new that's introduced really needs to make some effort to be lighter than NM; someone who just wants to handle a few packages is going to get put off by too many hoops and the current NM process is already largely constrained by available AM time rather than anything else. I don't pretend to know what the right solution is, but I think anyone attempting to produce one should be praised for that rather than attacked.