Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: I feel safer. Don't you? .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Friday, February 04, 2005

I feel safer. Don't you?

Report: FBI wasted millions on 'Virtual Case File'

After 9/11, the FBI shifted its primary mission from criminal investigations to preventing terrorism. After all, who better to tackle the daunting task of preventing domestic acts of violence than the folks who out-thugged organized crime, foiled many a kidnapping attempt, and struck fear into the hearts of interstate ne'er-do-wells.

But it appears that this august organization has fallen victim to the same knee-jerk reactions that gave us the Patriot Act and racial profiling. They embarked on an ambitious quest to develop a database that would allow them to link intelligence from law enforcement agencies across the nation. A logical and noble goal, given the secretive nature of imbedded Enemies of the State. Unfortunately, their plans went awry, and it's just now coming to light three years later in a report by the Justice Department's Inspector General.

"After more than three years and $170 million expected to be spent developing the Virtual Case File, the FBI has not provided a clear timetable or prospect for completing the VCF," the report said.

"In the interim, the critical need to replace the FBI's obsolete case management system remains," concludes the 81-page report.

But it wasn't their desire to develop this database that's at fault. It was their haste and lack of research that lead to the dismal news that we still don't have even a hope of success on the horizon.

The FBI had recently admitted the Virtual Case File technology, which had been delivered by contractor Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), had failed to meet the bureau's requirements and that much of the time and effort invested had been lost.

Lawmakers and the contractor agreed that the intense pressure to get a product out to FBI agents following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, contributed to the problem.

"This was both SAIC and the FBI all going to the sounds of the gun with our heads down on a very ambitious, high risk, highly concurrent project," SAIC Executive Vice President Arnold Punaro told reporters.

The FBI has established a short-term project in its New Orleans office to determine whether any portion of the VCF project can be salvaged.

In the meantime, the FBI is continuing to explore with outside consultants the prospects of purchasing commercially available off-the-shelf software.

Excuse me? Are they telling us that there might be programs already developed that could accomplish this task? He-llo! Ever heard of Best Buy? Nobody attempted to Google this? Maybe their "outside consultants" will recommend this course of action (hopefully without millions more in consulting fees).

FBI Director Robert Mueller promised a Senate panel late Thursday that he will decide within two months whether to scrap (the) special computer software...

Mueller testified that if a current test shows the project has to be scrapped, he estimates the loss to taxpayers at $104 million.

"I do not take that lightly," Mueller said. "I am tremendously disheartened."

I'd be tremendously disheartened too. If this had happened in the private sector, Mueller would be looking for another job. Wingnuts constantly complain about how hard it is to fire someone in a government job, no matter how inept they are. I guess this validates their opinion. Too bad it involves an organization that, according to them, is so critical to protecting our "freedom from fear".


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