Senate OKs Justice, State appropriations conference report

The Senate last night passed appropriations legislation requiring the Justice Department to establish an IT investment review board in the wake of the Virtual Case File project failure at the FBI.

The language, tucked into the departments of State, Justice, Commerce and related agencies fiscal 2006 appropriations bill, orders Justice to set up the Investment Review Board led by the deputy attorney general that will oversee all critical IT investments and project improvements departmentwide.

According to the conference report, the board 'shall review the completeness of the initial business case and cost justification [and] ensure the creation of realistic project performance metrics that measure compliance with the projects' stated scope, costs, schedule, performance and quality.'

The attorney general must submit a plan for the board to Congress 90 days after the bill becomes law.

Congressional conferees who hammered out a compromise appropriations bill for the departments said they created the review board in light of Justice's 'recent high-profile information technology failures and the large amount of resources devoted to these programs.'

The FBI's failed Virtual Case File, cost the agency more than $100 million over five years. VCF was doomed by poor management decisions early in the project, inadequate project oversight and a lack of sound IT investment practices, the Justice Department's IG reported in late 2004.

The conference report also grants $125 million for Justice's Information Sharing Technology program that is incorporating a variety of systems.

Elsewhere in the bill, conferees granted the State Department $69.3 million for its centralized IT modernization project, and 'reminded' the agency to update Congress on the plan each year.

Additionally, the language withholds $5 million from the agencies covered in the bill, including NASA and the National Science Foundation, if they do not improve telework offerings for all employees.

The bill now goes to President Bush for his signature.

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