FBI: Trilogy alone won't do it

'State of the art' needed for security, document woes

"Reforming FBI Management: The Views from Inside and Out"

The FBI took its lumps last week over its antiquated information technology infrastructure and a host of missing laptop computers. But the top IT priorities at the agency are security and creating a document management system, according to the bureau's IT chief.

Those priorities are closely aligned with two of the FBI's most recent embarrassments: the arrest of veteran agent Robert Hanssen for spying for the Russians for 15 years and the mishandling of thousands of documents in connection with the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"Our IT infrastructure is in need of repair, and our approach to IT planning and funding has been less than adequate," said Bob Dies, assistant director of the FBI's Information Resources Division, at a July 18 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Trilogy, the FBI's three-year plan to modernize its infrastructure, is designed to begin dealing with those issues, he said. The Bush administration is seeking $95 million in fiscal 2002 for the program.

But Trilogy might not be enough, he added. Recent events "indicate a need to quickly go beyond Trilogy's infrastructure plan to incorporate a state-of-the-art IT security process and a world-class records management system," Dies said. "Those would be our first two priorities." The bureau could then work on updating financial and personnel systems that date back to the 1980s.

In that vein, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced July 20 that consulting firm Andersen would conduct a management study of the FBI, including how it maintains its IT operations.

FBI officials said it will take more funding to fix the problems, but lawmakers warned that the bureau may find it tough to get more money until there is some indication it has a handle on its management problems. "The FBI has not been strapped for funds. The FBI has been strapped for leadership," said Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

Dies said the agency has made significant purchases of technology for programs in support of state and local law enforcement agencies. "What we need to do now is invest in the tools and support to satisfy the basic investigative needs of all our special agents and their support personnel."

The FBI's existing IT infrastructure is inadequate, Dies said. More than 13,000 desktop computers are 4 to 8 years old, and most of the smaller offices are connected to the FBI's internal network at sluggish speeds equivalent to a 56 kilobits/sec modem. "Fundamentally, at the dawn of the 21st century, the FBI is asking its agents and support personnel to do their jobs without the tools other companies use or that you may use at home on your system," he said.

Trilogy is designed to improve the FBI's network by linking bureau offices with high-speed connections, enabling employees to access information throughout the bureau and providing tools that will enable agents to better organize, access and analyze information.

"The Trilogy program enables the FBI to have a workable system of information technology resources," Dies said. "Trilogy will not by itself give the FBI a world-class, state-of-the-art system."

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