Former State Department (CA/CST) Official Greg Ambrose Dies

Posted: 3:32 pm PT
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Via FCW:

Greg Ambrose, who served as a senior IT official at the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs, has died, FCW confirmed.

“It is with great sadness that we learned this morning of the passing of Greg Ambrose,” read an email message distributed to staff by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ambrose’s former employer.

The cause of death could not be definitively confirmed, but in the early hours of May 3, Ambrose posted an apparent farewell message on Facebook. Shortly thereafter, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Police Department confirmed, a suicide occurred in the immediate vicinity of the Arlington, Va., address from which Ambrose had posted.

VA officials did not return requests for comment, and a State Department official said that, “out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Ambrose’s family, we have no information to share.”

Read in full here.

Ambrose left his CST job in June 2015 and when we asked him about his successor and ConsularOne, he told us that his then deputy Ken Reynolds would lead the charge maintaining continuity enabling the ConsularOne team to continue on the current path.  He moved to VA where he was deputy CIO for product development but left after five months. He told FCW in October 2015 that he was stepping down from that job to work in the private sector.

Before he came to the State Department, he was the Department of Homeland Security’s CIO for the US-VISIT program. Ambrose earned a 2013 Federal 100 award for his work at DHS: “In his first year on the job, Ambrose revamped the way IT and biometric services are planned, developed and delivered to stakeholders of DHS’ U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, one of the largest biometric databases in the world.”

Rest in peace, Greg.

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PSA: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called the Lifeline for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.  When you dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255), you are calling the crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. After you call, you will hear a message saying you have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You will hear hold music while your call is being routed. You will be helped by a skilled, trained crisis worker who will listen to your problems and will tell you about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

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State Dept’s Overseas Passport and Visa Systems Hit By Glitch Again, Suspends Issuance

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:

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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?

      Passports

  • 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.

      Visas

  • 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.

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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.

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