The FBI spent millions of dollars on its massive computer systems without adequate assurance they could meet intended goals, were being developed on schedule or were within established budgets, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said yesterday.
In a lengthy audit report, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said investigators found that FBI officials had not effectively managed the bureau’s information-technology systems because they had not fully implemented an effective management system.
The report said FBI executives had not followed a disciplined process of tracking and overseeing project costs and schedules, had failed to document a complete inventory of the bureau’s existing computer systems and projects, and did not consistently identify the need for each project.
Mr. Fine, in the report, said FBI officials told his investigators that before March, individual FBI divisions determined their information-technology needs in a “stovepipe without knowledge of the business needs and priorities of the FBI as a whole.”
“It looks like the FBI is playing with Lincoln Logs this Christmas season while everybody else is playing with X-Box and Play Station,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The FBI’s computers are a money pit, but they’re so obsolete that we have little choice about spending more money to fix them so the FBI can do its job of protecting the American people. I’m not surprised about this latest example of the lack of institutional accountability at the FBI,” he said.
Mr. Fine’s report said that since March, the FBI has made “measurable progress” in the implementation of effective management practices, especially in the area of selecting new projects. He said FBI officials had carried out only four of the 38 required management practices in January and that by June, that number had reached 14.
“Our audit describes significant deficiencies in how the FBI has managed its information technology investments, raising concerns about whether the FBI’s investments of hundreds of millions of dollars will produce systems that deliver the needed results on time and on budget,” Mr. Fine said, although he added that “the FBI has made advances during the past year in instituting sounder management practices regarding the selection and development of FBI information technology systems.”
The audit also said FBI personnel told investigators that staff shortages were the primary cause for incomplete information-technology inventories, although Mr. Fine noted that while shortages could be a contributing factor, the lack of centralized management over the computer systems “was the significant reason for this problem.”
He said that until June, the FBI did not have a centralized project management office to assist the investment boards in overseeing information technology projects that were, instead, maintained in three separate division management offices.
As part of the audit, investigators also analyzed the FBI’s implementation of Trilogy, its largest information technology project. Trilogy is intended to upgrade FBI hardware, software and communications networks, and consolidate the FBI’s five most important investigative applications.
Mr. Fine said the audit found that despite receiving funding of $458 million for Trilogy since November 2000, the FBI missed its target date of July 2002 for completing the deployment of the hardware, software and communications components of the project.
In its audit, investigators made 30 specific recommendations for the FBI in order to improve its management practices, including ensuring that each project has a management plan approved by an investment review board, and the development of written policies and procedures for identifying the needs and the associated users of each system.