Tuesday, September 23, 2003

FBI Systems still years behind corporate America

Baseline Magazine was one of the publications we met with on our recent press tour. They’re an interesting, and as near as I can tell, unique publication in that they focus exclusively on case studies for content, and try extraordinarily hard to document large implementations, warts and all. It’s a refreshing change from the press release copy machines that pass for “major” publications (who shall, uh, remain nameless).

In any event, this just showed up on my radar: FBI: Under the Gun. It documents the FBI’s failed efforts at synthesizing the well-publicized myriad systems that littered the FBI’s IT infrastructure post-9/11.

The article is as depressing as it gets. Some stats:

  • Originally budgeted at $380 million, the effort is now expected to cost upwards of $500 million and is more than six months behind schedule.

  • “Today, as we speak, the FBI still is using multiple networks for its day-to-day operations,” John says. “Let’s just say it’s less than five networks but more than two.” Huh?

  • The FBI’s 622 field offices are still not all connected.

  • After completion of the project, the FBI still won’t have a secure e-mail system.

  • The FBI is working on building a “Virtual Case File” system that will consolidate more than 180 databases to give agents a consolidated view of all case information. (Can you guess? Yup. Behind schedule and over budget.)

  • Visas to more than 300+ people were issued while work on this project continued — even though the names were either already on a terrorist watch list or were under explicit orders by the State Department not to get visas. (No system existed to easily check against, and responsibility for checking names against lists varied among several agencies.)

Reminds me of the promo for Reno 911 on Comedy Central: “Are we gonna catch all the bad guys? No. Are we gonna catch half the bad guys? No. Are we gonna catch a third of the bad guys? Probably not. Are we gonna catch some of the bad guys? I’m optimistic.”

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