FBI pledges to punish tardy IT contractors

The FBI will impose financial penalties on its contractors if they miss deadlines for rolling out the Trilogy project to modernize systems agencywide, FBI director Robert S. Mueller III today told a Senate subcommittee.

'We are concerned' about Trilogy's delays and rising price tag, said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary.

He asked Mueller what the bureau planned to do to reverse the schedule setbacks and cost overruns. The system is now 21 months off track and will cost about $200 million more than the $379 million originally planned.

Mueller said, 'The Trilogy contracts were entered into early on speedily, without perhaps the language we would have liked.' But that will be changing, he said.

The FBI awarded Trilogy contracts in 1992 to Computer Sciences Corp. and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. Now the bureau is renegotiating the deals. (Click for GCN story)

'What penalties do you have in place to enforce the April 30 deadline' for the rollout of Trilogy's next phase, Gregg asked.

'If the cost or schedule [goals] are missed, then there will be no award fee,' Mueller said. The fee amounts to $5 million, he said. If the project encounters cost overruns, the contractors and the FBI will split the additional cost equally, he said.

Justice Department inspector general Glenn Fine, whose office has issued a series of critical reports on Trilogy, noted that 'the completion of Trilogy is in sight. Director Mueller has made Trilogy a priority and has focused personal attention on this project, to his credit.'

Fine added, 'Both the FBI and the Justice Department now have CIOs who have a no-nonsense approach.' But, he cautioned, Trilogy will only lay the groundwork for further systems improvements at the bureau.

General Accounting Office IT auditors also testified at the hearing. Gregg asked them how other congressional committees oversee troubled IT projects similar to Trilogy.

Randy Hite, GAO's director of IT architecture and systems issues, specifically pointed to the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology system. For US Visit, Congress mandated that GAO, the Office of Management and Budget and DHS jointly review and approve each stage of the project, Hite said.

Gregg expressed interest in potentially developing a comparable oversight plan for Trilogy.

Besides Trilogy, Gregg also grilled Mueller about the bureau's lack of an enterprise architecture.

In written testimony submitted to the subcommittee, Hite and Laurie E. Ekstrand, GAO's director of homeland security and justice issues, had pointed to the lack of an enterprise architecture, IT management failures and rapid turnover at the highest levels of the bureau's IT organization as chief stumbling blocks for Trilogy.

But despite the tough testimony from GAO, Ekstrand told the subcommittee, 'We are very encouraged by the progress the FBI has made in a number of areas.'

As to the enterprise architecture, Mueller said the bureau on Friday had hired a vendor to help it complete a systems framework. Following the hearing, the bureau's acting CIO, Zalmai Azmi, said the FBI had awarded a $1.6 million contract to BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., to create an architecture by the end of the year.

Gregg asked Hite to review the FBI's contract with BearingPoint and to report back to the subcommittee on the pact.

'It is good that the FBI is getting on the right track,' Gregg concluded.

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