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GAO Report Finds FBI Plans Still Lacking

The bureau's three-year, $1 billion IT-modernization plan said to need a big-picture view.
Despite some improvements, the FBI still lacks a coordinated plan to modernize its IT systems, increasing the risk the agency will experience problems delivering new technology, the Government Accountability Office said in a report issued Friday.

A three-year modernization, costing more than $1 billion, is central to the FBI's continuing efforts to transform its operations. Each of the bureau's divisions and offices that manage IT projects performs integrated planning for its own work. However, GAO said, those plans lack a common, authoritative, and integrated view of how IT investments will help optimize mission performance. Nor do they consistently contain the elements expected to be found in effective systems-modernization plans, according to GAO.

FBI officials attribute the state of modernization planning to, among other things, the bureau's lack of a policy requiring such activities, GAO said. That's because the responsibility for managing IT, including modernization planning, historically has been decentralized.

The FBI's CIO recognizes these planning shortfalls and has initiated efforts to address them. "Until they are addressed," the 63-page report said, "the bureau risks acquiring systems that require expensive rework to be effectively integrated, thus hampering organizational transformation."

The investigative arm of Congress, GAO recommends that the FBI limit its near-term investments in IT systems until it develops an integrated systems-modernization plan and effective policies and procedures for systems acquisition and investment management. GAO says the FBI's CIO should be granted responsibility and authority to effectively manage IT across the bureau.

In a written response, the FBI said steps are being taken to lay the foundation for improving IT operations, but much work remains to institutionalize its IT-management improvements.