FBI cancels mega-modernization project

After months of tussling with Congress, FBI officials have killed plans for a contract that would have enhanced the agency's crime-fighting ability by giving its agents new hardware and software for sifting through and sharing information during investigations.

As part of the FBI's Information Sharing Initiative, the agency had planned to choose a single vendor to oversee its modernization, estimated to be worth $430 million over five years. But the FBI canceled the project, having failed to come to terms with Congress over how to fund and manage it.

Top bureau officials, in campaigning for the project during the past year, had described ISI as essential to the agency's ability to use technology to fight crime. Earlier this year, FBI director Louis Freeh said the program would help the FBI to move away from stovepiped systems to a single system that would enable the agency to manage cases enterprisewide through the ability to share information.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co. and Science Applications International Corp. pursued the ISI program, which was being managed by the General Services Administration's Federal Computer Acquisition Center.

In a memorandum to the vendors, John Trunnell, the GSA contracting officer, said the FBI had advised the contracting office that the procurement had not received the "required concurrence" and funding from Congress.

FBI officials familiar with ISI could not be reached for comment last week. But, according to people familiar with the project, Congress took issue with the bureau's plan to roll out new technology to all offices at once, rather than starting with offices that had the heaviest caseloads.

"The funding profile was completely unrealistic," said one Capitol Hill staff member, who described the rollout plan as an expensive "socialist approach to modernizing the FBI."

Still, Congress has set aside money for the project, leaving open the option of ISI being revived. Under the fiscal 2000 appropriations bill passed last month, the FBI will receive $20 million for the initiative plus access to another $60 million from fiscal 1999, if Congress approves the agency's plan.

If Congress and the FBI do not agree on a new ISI plan, the FBI still could use portions of its IT budget to tap existing contracting vehicles to upgrade agents' computer systems, said Richard Mackey, president of IT market analysis firm CapITal Reps LLC, Reston, Va.

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