@StateDept Cancels Ongoing #DiversityVisa Registration, Launches New Registration Oct.18-Nov.22

Posted: 3:14 pm PT
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On October 12, we blogged that the diversity visa website (https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/) has been down for maintenance since at least Sunday, October 8 (see Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Opens 10/3-11/7 – Site Now Down For Maintenance!). The Bureau of Consular Affairs which runs the program has now put up a new announcement:

With the exception of the notice posted on https://www.dvlottery.state.gov there are no FAQs on the website.  The US Embassy in Ecuador, however, helpfully posted the following FAQ:

Q: What can you tell us about the technical issue? Were entries lost? Was this a hacking attempt?
The technical issue was a failure to properly account for country of eligibility if the entrant was selecting a country of eligibility other than his/her place of birth, which is permitted in certain limited circumstances. This was not a result of any outside interference or hacking attempt.

Q: How many entries had been received before this technical issue?
Due to technical issues, we are unable to reliably estimate how many valid entries were received at this time. In order to protect the integrity of the process and ensure a fair opportunity to all entrants, we are restarting the entry period now.

Q: How many DV entries does the Department expect for DV-2019?
In DV-2018, the last year for which numbers are available, we received more than 14 million entries from principal applicants.

Q: How will the Department notify applicants whose entries are not valid? 

The Department will send an automated email notification to each Diversity Visa entrant from whom an entry was received before October 18, 2017, using the email address provided on the lottery entry form, directing the entrant to check the website dvlottery.state.gov for an important announcement.  We will also work through our embassies and consulates to inform potential entrants of the situation and new registration period using social media and local media outlets.

Since this program, presumably was the same program used in last year’s lottery, why would the “technical issue” that failed “to properly account for country of eligibility if the entrant was selecting a country of eligibility other than his/her place of birth” only surface now?  Did CA switched contractor between last year and this year’s lottery roll out? Did contractor perform system programming change after the last lottery but before the current one opened on October 3, 2017?

What we don’t understand is if this is a technical issue now, why was this not a technical issue last year if they’re using the same program?

This is not the first time that a “technical issue” happened with diversity visa lottery program.

We were reminded recently that the May 2015 DV lottery site crashed when people were trying to check lottery results. But the really big one happened much earlier in 2011 when Consular Affairs ran the FY2012 lottery, and it turned out the lottery results were not even random, so CA had to nullify the visa lottery results and ran the lottery again.  The nullification resulted in a lawsuit against the Department of State. That lawsuit was eventually dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on July 14, 2011.

The State/OIG did review that FY2012 DV debacle, and since we’re not clear how the current technical issue occurred, we’ll revisit the 2011 case:

The OIG team found three problems that led to this failure, all of which stem from the lack of adherence to sound project management and systems development principles. First, CA’s Office of Consular Systems and Technology (CST) implemented a system programming change without performing adequate testing. Second, CST changed contract task orders without notifying the Office of Acquisition Management (AQM). Third, CST management failed to adequately discuss the changes with all stakeholders and thus did not fully understand how overseas consular officers administer the DV program.

Also this:

The primary reason for the DV 2012 program failure was that CST did not adequately test the new computer program for the random selection of potential DV program participants. Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended,3 limits the number of DVs that may be available by both region and country. Therefore, 22 CFR § 42.33(c) requires that selection be based on random rank-ordering of participants by region through a computer program designed for this purpose. When participants submit their records, the computer program assigns a sequential number to each record based on the participant’s region. Subsequently, the selection process uses the sequential numbers to randomly rank-order the participants’ records. CST management decided in November 2010 not to use the commercial off—the—shelf statistics analysis program that it had used successfully for random rank—ordering in numerous previous years. Instead, CST management asked one of its contractors to develop a program. This new computer program had a coding error that produced a nonrandom rank-ordering and thus failed to meet INA requirements. The program not only selected 98 percent of the applicants from the first two dates of the allowed submission dates, it also selected multiple individuals from the same families.

According to CST management and the contractor staff who developed the new DV computer program, testing scenarios were limited to validating that all geographic regions were assigned the correct numerical limitation and that the total number of selectees to be drawn was accurate. In addition, the development, testing, and production implementation of the program were done exclusively by one contracting company that, due to poor planning and failure to consult with all DV stakeholders, did not have adequate information to create a complete test plan for the computer program. Key stakeholders such as CST’s independent validation and verification team, the Visa Office, and the contractor that operated and managed the legacy computer program were not involved in planning and implementing the new computer program.
[…]
Principals in the Visa Office were not aware that changes had been made to the computer program until after it failed and the results had to be voided. CST management further stated that it is not clear to them which office is responsible for administering the DV program.

Read the full report here: https://oig.state.gov/system/files/176330.pdf.

So again, did the Consular Affairs contractor perform system programming changes after last year’s lottery but before the current one opened on the 3rd of October?

If that did not happen, and CA is using the same system, how did CA principals become aware that the system is failing “to properly account for country of eligibility if the entrant was selecting a country of eligibility other than his/her place of birth?”

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Trump to Nominate Yleem D. S. Poblete to be Asst Secretary For Verification and Compliance

Posted: 3:14 am ET
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On October 10, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Yleem D. S. Poblete to be the next Assistant Secretary of State, Verification and Compliance. The office’s name is actually the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC). If Arms Control was separated from AVC, the state.gov website does not reflect that as of this writing. The WH released the following brief bio:

Yleem D. S. Poblete of Virginia to be an Assistant Secretary of State, Verification and Compliance. Dr. Poblete is currently a senior advisor at the Department of State. She has also served more than two decades on the staff of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, including as its chief of staff and staff director – the first Hispanic female to serve in that post. Dr. Poblete is broadly knowledgeable regarding proliferation matters, the International Atomic Energy Agency, nuclear agreements, sanctions and export controls, security assistance and arms sales. During her service on the Foreign Affairs Committee, she was the principal staff member on initiatives to address threats posed by Iran, North Korea, and Syria. She has been a frequent guest lecturer at the National Intelligence University. She has also been the co-owner of Poblete Analysis Group, a fellow at The Catholic University of America, and a foreign policy analyst for United States Government projects at the Hudson Institute. Dr. Poblete earned a B.A. from Saint Thomas University, an M.A. magna cum laude from the University of Miami, and a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

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Video of the Day: 69th Secretary of State Says, “I checked. I’m fully intact.”

Posted: 2:16 am ET
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Holy caramba!  The world is falling apart, and here is the 69th Secretary of State. We feel sorry for us and the historians at history.state.gov but this is a remarkable moment. How low have we fallen … uh, that’s not a question. He also talked about other stuff, but obviously, we can’t remember what he said, or even if we can remember what our top diplomat said … what the heeeey, it’s pretzel day, every day these days.

AND NOW THIS —

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Trump Nominates Career Diplomat Lisa A. Johnson to be U.S. Ambassador to Namibia

Posted: 2:16 am ET
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On October 5, President Trump announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Lisa A. Johnson to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Namibia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Lisa A. Johnson of Washington to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia.Ms. Johnson, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1992. She is currently Chargé d’ Affaires at U.S. Embassy Nassau. As a senior official at the State Department, National Security Council, and Vice President’s Office, Ms. Johnson demonstrated leadership of interagency teams, crisis management expertise, and a breadth of experience. She has served at six U.S. Missions overseas, including two in Africa. Ms. Johnson earned a M.S. from the National War College, a M.I.A. from Columbia University, and an A.B. from Stanford University. Her languages are French and Portuguese.

Career diplomat Lisa A. Johnson assumed office as Chargè d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Nassau  in July 2014 after the departure of career diplomat John W. Dinkelman who served as CDA from November 2011 until July 2014 following the departure of Ambassador Nicole Avant in 2011. In May this year, Trump nominated the first U.S. Ambassador for the Bahamas since 2011 (see Trump to Nominate San Diego Developer “Papa” Doug Manchester to be Ambassador to The Bahamas). The nomination has been cleared in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and currently pending in the Executive Calendar.

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Blognotes: Moving Our Curated Store From There to Here

Just a quick housekeeping note — as many of you know, this blog is part of Amazon’s Affiliate Program. Your purchases via affiliate links here help support this blog at no extra cost to you. It’s not a lot but it helps. We have a curated e-store that includes primarily movies related to diplomacy, the Foreign Service or the State Department, as well as a list of books, and gifts. Later in October, Amazon will do away with its e-store functionality, so we have imported the lists here. We’ve done away with a lot of stuff and pared down our selection. If you use the “STORE” tab under the blog header, you will get to this page, which is generally divided into a curated lists for movies,
t-shirts/gifts, really just mugs that we adore, and books. We hope to keep the lists small and manageable, and will update the selection as time allows it! We hope you enjoy our picks! If you have other suggestions to share, do let us know.

For now, don’t miss the After Every Trump Tweet, You Need This Screamy Owl T-Shirt, which is really what I look like every morning when I open my newsfeed and see what POTUS has tweeted. More here.

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