Three years after starting, FBI is calling in outsiders to re-evaluate its approach
The FBI is exploring whether a 3-year-old project that's critical to its massive technology upgrade effort should be abandoned. At issue is whether the Virtual Case File system, the $170 million centerpiece of the third phase of its Trilogy project technology upgrade, will provide the security and overall efficiency required to make it usable.
"There were inadequacies," an FBI spokesman says. Virtual Case File, originally scheduled for deployment in December 2003, has been plagued by problems as the FBI's information-sharing needs have evolved over the past few years. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an inability to share information was highlighted as a weakness in the FBI and other agencies.
The contractor, Science Applications International Corp., doesn't accept all the blame for the problems. "The FBI modernization effort involved a massive technological and cultural change, agencywide," Duane Andrews, SAIC chief operating officer, said in a statement. "... All parties involved have made mistakes in the way the Trilogy program was handled in the past."
SAIC said it delivered--and the FBI accepted--the first installment of the virtual file system in December, in what it calls a change in FBI strategy to do the project in a "less risky, incremental, phased-in" deployment rather than all at once. SAIC said the FBI has had four different CIOs during the life of Trilogy, and 14 different managers on the project that began in 2001, making it "incredibly challenging" to set system requirements.
The agency now will pay the advisory firm Aerospace Corp. to investigate whether the Virtual Case File project can be salvaged. The FBI says in a document highlighting recent technology improvements that "the pace of technological innovation has overtaken our original vision for VCF, and there are now existing products to suit our purposes that did not exist when Trilogy began."
Aerospace will evaluate the project as well as off-the-shelf software and applications designed by other federal agencies to determine how the FBI can best move forward with plans to give agents the ability to better share case-file information.
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