- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday said the Justice Department has not effectively managed federal information technology (IT) systems that cost taxpayers $2 billion a year, and he wants to know why.
"I am concerned about how the Justice Department is managing the $2 billion spent annually by the department on IT systems," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican. "DOJ must make the effective use of technology and IT systems a priority that it clearly has not been."
Mr. Sensenbrenner's comments were in response to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report released yesterday saying the Justice Department had not effectively managed the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's IT systems, noting that only one staff member was assigned to oversee INS' development and management of 107 IT systems.
The Justice Department spends about $2 billion annually on a myriad of IT criminal-justice systems, including $459 million last year for INS.
The GAO report recommended that the Justice Department treat oversight of IT systems as a departmental priority, that it plan and implement initiatives to introduce missing oversight controls and capabilities, and that INS adhere to existing life-cycle and investment requirements to manage its systems.
"INS systems are pivotal in providing law enforcement with information about potential terrorists and illegal aliens charged with criminal activities," Mr. Sensenbrenner said. "With the INS moving to the Department of Homeland Security, I hope the chief information officer of that department takes note of this report and puts oversight in place before more INS systems failures take place and more public money is mismanaged."
Mr. Sensenbrenner said the GAO report noted that of the four key IT systems reviewed by investigators, the Justice Department had not followed its own guidance and measured progress against approved cost, schedule, performance and benefit commitments.
He said the department did not know whether key IT systems would actually work as well as anticipated or whether they would deliver the benefits intended.
The GAO investigation was requested in November 2001 by Mr. Sensenbrenner; the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan; immigration, border security and claims subcommittee Chairman Rep. George W. Gekas, Pennsylvania Republican; and the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas.
The GAO report said the Justice Department has not been positioned to "take timely corrective action to address its component agencies' deviations from established investment commitments, and adequately ensure that promised capabilities are delivered on time and within budget."
The report said the department recognized the need to strengthen its oversight of component agencies' IT investments and has plans to do so, including an initiative to develop steps and procedures for overseeing cost, schedule and performance goals.
In the past, the Justice Department has not conducted the required level of oversight because it had not given enough priority to the task, the report said, and because INS did not have the data Justice needed to conduct the required oversight.
The GAO report said INS did not have "the kind of meaningful project data that would allow the measurement of progress against commitments," and could not provide investigators with information needed to measure the progress of the four INS technology systems against commitments, including current costs or reports measuring progress.

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