Posted: 11:09 pm EDT
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Somebody sent us a note on June 11 asking, “Do you think the Chinese hackers could fix the Consular Consolidated Database?” Fix, how, we asked the white, empty space of the burn bag email.
Today, this pops up:
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) June 12, 2015
Here is the information provided by the State Department to the public:
Passport/Visa Systems Errors
- The Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our overseas passport and visa systems.
- This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category.
- The Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) problems we are experiencing are not the same challenges we overcame last summer. We are working urgently to correct the problems and restore our system to full operational status as soon as possible.
- We apologize to applicants who are experiencing delays or are unable to obtain a passport overseas, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or U.S. visa at this time. Domestic passport issuances are not affected at this time. We are able to issue emergency passports to U.S. citizens overseas for urgent travel.
- We are seeking to assist non-immigrant visa applicants with urgent humanitarian travel. Travelers with an urgent humanitarian need for travel should contact their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- We are aware of pending overseas adoption cases, including in China. We are prioritizing these cases and seek to issue these visas with few delays.
- We regret the inconvenience to travelers, and remain committed to facilitating legitimate travel while protecting our borders. We are working urgently to correct the problem and expect our system to be fully operational again soon.
- We will post updates to Travel.State.Gov as more information becomes available.
How is this affecting consular operations?
- Passport applications accepted overseas on or after May 26, 2015 are affected. If you applied for a U.S. passport during this time frame and have travel plans within the next 10 business days, please consider requesting an emergency passport at the U.S. embassy or consulate at which you originally applied. Information about how to apply for an emergency passport is available on the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- A hardware failure on June 9 halted the flow of biometric clearance requests from posts to the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD). Individuals who submitted online applications or were interviewed for visas on or after June 9 may experience a delay in the processing.
- The systems in place to perform required national security checks before we issue visas are experiencing technical difficulties. As a result, we are unable to print visas, regular passports overseas, and other travel documents.
- We cannot bypass the legal requirements necessary to screen visa applicants before we issue visas for travel.
- As a result, there is a backlog of visas waiting to be processed. We are working as quickly as possible to resolve the issue and to clear the backlog.
- The technical issues we are experiencing have disrupted or prevented some of the Department’s primary data-share partners from accessing visa records.
The public notice notes that visas cannot be printed without using the CCD system as security measures prevent consular officers from printing a passport, report of birth abroad, or visa until the case completes the required national security checks.visas
On the CA Q&A whether this was a malicious action or hack, the public response only says that the State Department is “working urgently to correct the problem and expect the system to be fully operational again soon.” There is currently no available timeline on when full system functionality may be restored.
Read the full notice here.
We should note that the person in charge of the CA Bureau’s response the last time the CCD had a meltdown was Greg Ambrose, a career IT official who was the chief of consular systems and technology (State/CA/CST). FCW previously reported this:
He has been working on a modernization project at State that involves taking the Consular Consolidated Database, a massive system of 12 databases used to process passport and visa applications, from Windows 2003 to Linux. He is also moving the data warehouse to the more powerful Oracle 11g platform. The goal is to give the stovepiped legacy systems a single look and feel.
Not this time around.
— FCW (@FCWnow) May 20, 2015
@Diplopundit Deputy Ken Reynolds will lead the charge maintaining continuity enabling the ConsularOne team to continue on the current path.
— Greg Ambrose (@GregAmbrose) May 20, 2015
Citing internal State Department email, FCW says that Mr. Ambrose is scheduled to leave his CST job on June 11. As of today, Kenneth Reynolds, Ambrose’s deputy reportedly replaced him on an acting capacity.
- State Dept’s Critical National Security Database Crashes, Melts Global Travelers’ Patience (diplopundit.net)
- State Dept Answers FAQ on Ongoing Visa and Passport Database Performance Issues (diplopundit.net)
- State Department’s “Technical Difficulties” Continue Worldwide, So What About the CCD?
- State Dept Spox on outages at embassies: “separate”, “unconnected”, “unrelated” — wowie zowie!
- Burn Bag: Consular Leadership Tenet #5: Something Seriously Wrong With the CCD. Communicate?