Whoa! Senate Passes @StateDept Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, FY2016

Posted: 5:06 pm PT
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Our source on the Hill says a lot of folks missed in the excitement of Roberta Jacobson’s confirmation that the Senate also voted on the FY2016 State Department authorization bill.  We were told that a lot of folks were surprised to see the FY16 bill revived this late (yours truly included) in the fiscal year but that it was wrapped up in the deal that resulted in Rubio lifting his hold on Jacobson.

We actually did look up the FY2016 bill last night on congress.gov but it did not show the latest action when we blogged about the authorization bills. In any case, yes, S.1635 – Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 also passed the Senate with amendments by unanimous consent on April 28, 2016.  The topics under the related posts below remain in the FY2016 authorization bill. The FY2017 authorization bill that the SFRC passed yesterday is currently pending in the Senate.

Read below (please scroll) or click here from the Congressional Record.

Related posts:

 

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Nonimmigrant Visas: 2014 Data Kills 2020 NIV Application Projections Made in 2005

Posted: 3:05 am EDT
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Via GAO:

According to State’s projections, NIV [nonimmigrant visa] applications from the East Asia and Pacific region and the South and Central Asia region, will increase by about 98 and 91 percent, respectively, from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2019. The Western Hemisphere region is expected to receive approximately 6.9 million applicants by fiscal year 2019, an increase of approximately 30 percent from fiscal year 2014.

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State has underestimated growth in NIV demand in past projections. In 2005, State contracted with an independent consulting firm to project growth in NIV applicant volume through 2020. As of 2014, 13 of the 18 countries included in this study had exceeded their 2014 NIV demand projections. The study also underestimated the sharp escalation of NIV demand in Brazil and China. By 2014, Brazil’s demand had already exceeded the study’s projection for NIV applicants in 2020 by over 104 percent, and in the same year, China’s demand was over 57 percent higher than the study’s 2020 projection for it. These increases in demand resulted in longer NIV interview wait times between 2006 and 2011 in Brazil and China. As we have previously reported, increases in NIV demand have historically impacted State’s ability to efficiently process visas.

Expected increases in NIV demand are further complicated by State’s current NIV process, including proposed staffing levels that are not anticipated to rise significantly through fiscal year 2016. Consular officers in 8 of the 11 focus groups and consular management officials at posts in Beijing, Mexico City, and New Delhi told us that current efforts to reduce NIV interview wait times are not sustainable if demand for NIVs continues to increase at expected rates. A consular management official at one post noted that efforts such as staff increases have been a “temporary fix” but are not a long-term solution to their high volume of NIV applicants. Staffing levels cannot be increased indefinitely due to factors such as hiring restrictions, staffing limitations established by host governments, and physical workspace constraints. For example, according to State officials, State is currently hiring to meet vacancies caused by attrition and is expected to increase the number of consular officers by only 57 in fiscal year 2015, a 3 percent increase, and not increase consular officers in fiscal year 2016. State officials told us that they do not expect significant increases in staffing levels beyond 2016. According to State officials, staffing limitations established by host governments are also a barrier to State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ staffing efforts. For example, the Indian government has currently restricted the number of staff the United States can employ at consulates and embassies. Physical capacity limitations, such as insufficient interview windows for visa adjudication, are also a concern for efforts to increase staffing.

State/OIG Inspections Coming Your Way in FY2016

Posted: 1:05 am EDT
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Extracted from State/OIG Work Plan FY2016-2017:

In FY 2015, OIG began a project to refine the way it prioritizes, scopes, and conducts inspections, with the overarching goal of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the inspection process and enhancing the integrity of reports. As part of this project, ISP will be pilot testing new inspection models during FY 2016. The results of this project and the associated pilot tests will influence OIG’s FY 2017 inspection planning and scheduling. At this time, bureaus and posts being considered for inspection in FY 2017 include the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation; Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Fraud Prevention Programs; and embassies in China, Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, and South Sudan. Once finalized, the FY 2017 inspections schedule will be added to this planning document.

In addition to the FY 2016 inspections listed below, ISP conducts two to four compliance follow-up reviews each year. The subject inspections for these reviews will be identified 30 to 60 days prior to the initiation of the review. ISP’s schedule is contingent upon availability of funds, budget decisions, and changes in inspection priorities, and is, therefore, subject to revision.

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Via state.gov/oig

The Work Plan is available here.