- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The FBI, first warned in 1990 that its computer and information systems were outdated and ineffective, has failed to make all the necessary improvements to ensure it can effectively guard against terrorists who target the United States, a report said yesterday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, in a 145-page report, said that while the FBI made progress in correcting problems with outdated infrastructures, fragmented management, ineffective systems, inadequate training and problems with computer security, more work is needed to guard against terrorists.

“In the past, FBI management had not paid sufficient attention to improving its IT [information technology] program,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. “Until recently the FBI lacked an effective system to ensure that recommendations issued by the OIG are implemented in a timely and consistent manner.

“This audit shows that while some progress has been made, more needs to be done to correct deficiencies that we have identified in prior reports,” Mr. Fine said.

In a response to the report, the FBI agreed to make and document efforts to meet the recommendations, and to hold bureau supervisors accountable for getting the job done.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has said the overhaul of the FBI information-technology program is a bureau priority and has been recognized as a “core function that must be fully supported by management.”

According to the report, the FBI has implemented 93 of 148 recommendations made over the past 13 years to correct an IT program described by investigators as outdated and ineffective. But, the report said, “many additional actions are required to ensure that the FBI’s IT program effectively supports its mission” of preventing terrorism.

Following the September 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people, Attorney General John Ashcroft made it clear that prevention of terrorism was the Justice Department’s top priority, and that effective use of information technology was crucial to the FBI’s ability to meet that priority.

The FBI, according to the report, allocated $606 million in fiscal 2003 for IT projects. The bureau, under Mr. Mueller’s leadership, was “pursuing significant improvements … which it believes will correct many of the deficiencies identified by the OIG reports,” said the report.

But the report said that until recently, the FBI had not established a system of management controls for tracking recommendations, as required by the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget. As a result the bureau had not adequately improved its IT program to ensure data are safeguarded and reliable.

The report also said computer applications were not secure from unauthorized access.

Mr. Fine noted the FBI leadership indicated it is “committed to enhancing controls” to ensure the previous recommendations are timely and consistently implemented, and that the bureau established a system to facilitate tracking the implementation of recommendations.

In the report, the Inspector General’s Office recommended the FBI develop, document and implement bureauwide procedures to follow up the recommendations, and that it guarantee that managers are held accountable.

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