Under fire, FBI vows to meet database deadline
Grilled by Congress and roasted by recent media attacks, the FBI promises it will
finish its years-in-coming systems upgrade by July 1999.
Congressional staff members, however, said they are less than confident. "On a
scale of one to 10, I'd say our confidence is a five they would deliver on time," one
staff member said.
At the heart of FBI's systems plans are an upgrade of the bureau's central crime
databases housed at the National Crime Information Center-known as NCIC 2000-and
construction of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
Under the NCIC 2000 umbrella, FBI wants to make access to criminal data faster and
easier for law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Through the IAFIS program, FBI has been building a system to digitally record
fingerprints and store the data with related information. FBI wants IAFIS to support near
real-time searches of its repository of 40 million prints.
The delay in completing the projects and a sharp rise in cost have
affected FBI's relationship with Congress.
"I do believe the funding of some [systems] initiatives are affected by the
additional costs of NCIC 2000 and IAFIS. They have had a negative impact," said
Carolyn Morris, FBI's assistant director for IRM.
FBI officials acknowledged that the agency deserves some blame for a system that,
even if delivered on schedule, still will be four years late and cost $110 million more
than originally estimated.
But they also detailed how they made delay and cost data known to Congress over the
last two years, how FBI Director Louis Freeh and information technology managers have
pursued the projects' completion, and how lawmakers have been kept informed of progress.
But congressional sources said they still question the bureau's ability to meet its
latest self-imposed deadline.
The original $60 million contract for NCIC 2000 was awarded to Harris Corp. of Melbourne,
Fla., in March 1993.
An additional $13 million was put aside for expenditures unrelated to Harris,
putting the initial estimate at $73 million. Harris had promised to deliver the entire
project by July 1995.
But that deadline was never met. FBI blames Harris for not deliver-ing on time.
Congress blames FBI.
"Harris took off building a system they did not understand and we let
them," said Eugene O'Leary, the current NCIC program manager.
He added, "The architecture was insufficient; they purchased smaller models of
the computers needed; the system was supposed to handle peak 80 transactions per second.
During testing, it scored in the teens."
One House staff member disagreed. "We take issue with FBI just
blaming Harris. FBI just did not define the system's requirements adequately enough,"
Morris and O'Leary said Freeh hired them as part of a new team to take over NCIC
2000's upgrade after the director was briefed about problems in September 1995.
Despite its troubled history with Harris, Morris and O'Leary signed a revised contract
with the company to finish the NCIC work and add new features.
"We get hit over the head by everybody asking,, 'Why do you stick with Harris?'
" O'Leary said.
"We do believe that Harris, with its new management, still has the best chance
of finishing the work ahead of anyone new," Morris said. Harris changed management in
1995, about the same time Freeh hired FBI's new IT team.
FBI's revised cost for completing NCIC is $183 million, of which Harris might get as
much as $144 million, depending on how much work the company will have to do, O'Leary
said. So far, the company has received only the original $60 million, he added. O'Leary
said part of the delay in finishing NCIC 2000 arose because FBI added new programs to the
system specifications between the time Harris signed the first contract in 1993 and when
it was awarded the follow-on contract in 1995.
He says at least three of those programs-a fingerprint search application, an image
program and a program to capture and transmit mug shots-are state-of-the-art additions
that require more time and money.
The programs would let officers in mobile units fingerprint suspects, take mug
shots, print the information and transmit the data to police stations, which in turn would
relay the information to NCIC.
O'Leary said Harris has nearly completed development and testing of the
hardware and software for the mobile imaging unit and an on-site station.
The MIU and on-site station programs run on any 386 PC, though FBI recommends a
66-MHz 486 PC or better. The applications are designed to run under Microsoft Windows 3.x,
Windows 95 or Windows NT. The software, however, does not use the 32-bit processing and
dynamic multitasking capabilities of Win95 and NT.
A 35-member NCIC Advisory Policy Board, which represents state and local law
enforcement officials who are NCIC's end users, meets twice a year to recommend programs
to the FBI director for inclusion in NCIC 2000. FBI officials say some law changes
FBI's second controversial plan, IAFIS, being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp., is
now expected to cost $640 million, compared to the initial estimate of $520 million.
Program manager Doug Domin said the initial estimate was done in the early 1990s,
but by the time the actual contract was awarded in 1996, the cost estimate rose by 25
percent and the program's requirements grew by 23 percent.
He said two of the project's six segments have been built and development of the
others is under way. The system will be fully functional by summer 1999, he said. Lockheed
Martin had announced it would finish the work by next year.