FBI funding bill targets high-tech info sharing program

The House and Senate last week approved an appropriations bill that gives the FBI $20 million for building information technology systems that should enable its agents to more easily share information on cases they investigate.

But lawmakers on Capitol Hill first want to review the FBI's management plan for the project before the agency can spend any of the money. The plan, according to Congress, must lay out how the FBI will manage the multimillion-dollar high-tech program, which relies on cutting-edge computer hardware and software to enhance the agency's information sharing and crime-fighting ability.

FBI planners of the project, known as the Information Sharing Initiative, have been seeking $430 million to undertake the project over the next five years. However, members of Congress are reluctant to give the FBI the funding it has requested, questioning whether the agency would mismanage the project as it has other large technology projects, such as the National Crime Information Center 2000 and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

The FBI and its parent agency, the Justice Department, experienced cost overruns of more than $100 million on the $184 million NCIC 2000—an upgrade to a system law enforcement agencies nationwide use to conduct criminal background checks, locate missing persons and find stolen vehicles. The price tag of the FBI's IAFIS, a system for electronically searching fingerprints, also grew from its original $470 million estimate to $640 million.

The bill that Congress approved this week provides the FBI $20 million in fiscal 2000 for ISI development. It also enables the agency to spend up to $60 million that it did not use in fiscal 1999.

Congressional appropriations committees also injected language into the bill that requires the FBI to get congressional approval for ISI and calls on the bureau to submit by Nov. 1 a detailed report on current IT projects.

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