State Dept. database crash leads to passport, visa delays

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By Patrick Thibodeau, Computerworld | July 24th, 2014

Agency blames crash on maintenance, not sabotage.

A State Department database used to issue passports and visas worldwide that crashed and was taken offline, is now operating in a limited capacity, an official said Monday.

The Consular Consolidate Database, which holds tens of millions of visa cases and photographs, has been described by the government as one of the largest Oracle-based warehouses in the world.

The outage prompted some U.S. consulates, such as one in Russia, to post apologies on their websites to people who are experiences delays or are unable to obtain a passport.

Marie Harf, a state department spokesperson, said at a briefing that the department is “working urgently to correct the problem and expect our system to be fully operational soon.

“We do not believe there was any malicious action or anything untoward here — this was a technical issue,” said Harf. The problem occurred shortly after maintenance on the database took place.

Harf wasn’t able to immediately answer questions about exactly when the problem began, but said it may have been several days ago.

There is now a backlog and government officials “were working through it,” said Harf. “We ask people to be patient.”

There was no estimate on how long it will take to clear the backlog.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick’s RSS feed. His e-mail address is