Justice IG: Bureau management errors stall IT projects, waste money

Justice IG: Bureau management errors stall IT projects, waste money

The FBI's mismanagement of IT projects has led the bureau to waste millions on projects and to miss deadlines for implementing crucial upgrades to anticrime systems, the Justice Department's inspector general said.

After conducting dozens of interviews at FBI headquarters and field offices, IG investigators concluded that the bureau lacked basic project management practices and had failed to establish policies that would prevent overruns and delays in IT procurements.

'Additionally, there were no clearly defined, uniform procedures for project management, tracking project performance and taking corrective action as necessary,' the IG said. Although the bureau has started on the road to proper project management, investigators said, it 'continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on IT projects without having adequate selection and project management controls in place to ensure that IT projects will deliver their intended benefits.'

The IG report, FBI's Investment Management of IT Systems, included a review of the Trilogy project [see story at gcn.com/21_19/storage/19300-1.html], the bureau's largest and most critical IT program. 'We found that the lack of critical IT investment management processes contributed to missed milestones and led to uncertainties about cost, schedule and technical goals,' the report said.

Despite $78 million in additional funding for the Trilogy project, which began with a three-year schedule and a $379.8 million budget, project management problems caused the bureau to miss milestones set in July 2002 for completing initial phases of the work. FBI officials acknowledged that costs for the user application component of Trilogy, which the bureau says is critical for improving agent performance, could run over the expanded budget.

'Regarding the technical requirements for Trilogy, we were told that some aspects of Trilogy as submitted to Congress did not turn out to be technically feasible,' the report said. 'For example, FBI officials told us that the thin-client strategy was not pursued because it was found that this type of network could not be achieved given the technical requirements of the FBI.' The bureau also abandoned a project to put online the Automated Case System, a legacy database of information about investigations, because it would have been too costly.

The bureau's poor documentation of its databases has forced the FBI to perform reverse engineering to determine the technical configuration of the databases, further delaying the Trilogy project, the IG's report said.

The inspector general issued 30 recommendations with the report, which centered on reforming project management at the bureau and establishing proper procedures for implementing IT systems. FBI officials largely concurred with the recommendations and said the bureau has plans under way to deal with the problems.

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