- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 22, 2002

A senior member of a House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday questioned efforts by the FBI to upgrade existing computer technologies after the September 11 attacks, saying Congress has spent $1.6 billion on new FBI computers since 1993.
"I've been sitting on this subcommittee for 18 years," Rep. Harold Rodgers told FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III during a hearing. "I've heard director after director after director say, 'Give us the money. We're going to modernize this computer system.'"
"Pardon me. I mean, I don't want to be cynical here, but I've heard this before," the Kentucky Republican said.
His comments came during an oversight hearing by the House Appropriations commerce, justice, state and the judiciary subcommittee into the FBI's proposed reorganization after the terrorist strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed about 3,000 people.
Criticized by Congress for not responding to pre-September 11 terrorist warnings, including those from within the bureau itself, the FBI wants legislative approval for a major overhaul designed to change the agency from one that investigates crimes to one that prevents them.
A key element of the plan is the integration of new technology to replace FBI computer systems that many have described as outdated for lacking the ability to communicate ongoing investigative information to agents in the bureau's 56 field offices or to its posts overseas.
FBI Assistant Director Robert Chiaradio recently told the Senate Judiciary Committee that agents involved in the September 11 investigation were forced to send out critical information about the probe including the mug shots of the 19 hijackers by overnight mail to agents worldwide.
Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in a recent report that the FBI's "troubled information management systems" were likely to have a continued negative effect on the bureau's ability to investigate crimes properly.
Mr. Rodgers told Mr. Mueller that since 1993, Congress had "loaded the FBI up with money" for new computer technology, including $67 million for an Automated Case-Management System; $100 million for the Trilogy computer system; $640 million for the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS); $200 million for the National Crime Information Center; $25 million for Digital Storm; and $500 million on the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).
"And all the while, we were pleading for FBI to not only build a common architecture within FBI computer systems, but for the various intelligence agencies and other agencies to merge their databases," Mr. Rodgers said.
"We couldn't ever get them to merge their databases, much less get the CIA, FBI, INS, DEA, DIA and so on to merge the watch list databases so that the screeners at the airport know when somebody bad is coming to the gate or the police in Phoenix, when they stop somebody for a traffic ticket, know they're a bad person," he said.
Mr. Rodgers asked what assurances Mr. Mueller could give the subcommittee that the FBI would make any new computer systems work if funded.
"I think it is important to recognize that technology is not just bringing in the computers and putting in the area networks and bringing in the servers," Mr. Mueller said. "If you just do that, then you're doomed to failure because you have not transformed the work force. You have not transformed the way you do things."
"So you have to transform the organization from top to bottom," he said. "It's not just bringing in the boxes, not just bringing in the wires, but there has to be the training; there has to be the development of the applications that are user-friendly so everybody will know how to use them and will continue to use them."

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