SAIC sees future for FBI system

The FBI should fully deploy the Virtual Case File case management system despite the problems it has experienced and the criticism it has received, an executive of Science Applications International Corp. said last week.

The troubled VCF project, which the San Diego company has provided to the FBI in a pilot version, has been the subject of critical reports and investigations by the Congress, the Government Accountability Office, the Justice Department inspector general and the National Science Foundation.

'We certainly believe they could deploy VCF,' said Mark Hughes, president of SAIC's system and network solutions group. He added that scuttling VCF, a move the FBI is considering, would delay the bureau's adoption of modern case management software by three years or more.

Hughes rejected the conclusion of a report by Aerospace Corp., prepared for the FBI and delivered in December. The scientific research company in El Segundo, Calif., recommended VCF be shuttered, Hughes said.

The Justice IG also has said VCF is inadequate and should be abandoned in favor of a new system being planned, the Federal Investigative Case Management System.

SAIC won its contract to build VCF in June 2001. After six months of work, the bureau revised its requirements for the project, rendering the first few months' effort useless, Hughes said.
Hughes added that the bureau's shifting requirements and frequent management changes hindered VCF but said SAIC itself bears some responsibility for the problems.

He said SAIC may have taken some risky steps to speed the project because the bureau said it was critical. 'We established eight different programming teams operating in parallel,' he said. 'It was very hard to coordinate the activities of these eight different teams. We could have done a better job of that.'

He said: 'The ultimate test is that we delivered a product in December that does what it is supposed to do. We also did stress-testing and modeling on the system, and we believe it can be scaled up to the full FBI.'

If the bureau decides to deploy VCF, the FBI eventually will be able to stop relying on its outdated Automated Case File System case management software and phase in additional VCF functions, Hughes said. 'I think most of the capabilities we have designed and coded can be deployed within a year,' he said.

The company and the bureau renegotiated the VCF contract last year and agreed on a requirements document that remained in effect through December, Hughes said.

FBI officials did not immediately respond to SAIC's statements. But the bureau has said that no decision on VCF's fate has been made.

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