Hill revives FBI project
- By Bryant Jordan
- Jun 19, 2000
An ambitious FBI project that will give its agents the ability to share
and sift through information on active investigations is back on track,
after a new World Wide Web-based strategy persuaded Congress to infuse it
After being postponed in December when earlier requests for funding
were denied, the project is not only alive but also conceptually transformed,
according to a telecommunications expert who has followed the program since
The program's new direction is signaled by its name change — from Information
Sharing Initiative to "e-FBI." The name was changed because the bureau wants
the system to be accessible entirely via the Internet, said the expert,
who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"With e-FBI, they want to sink a lot into Web enabling," he said. "This
is going to be phased in over time. No one in his right mind thinks the
FBI is going to make this jump overnight."
But the technology exists to do this kind of information exchange in
an efficient, secure environment, he said.
FBI officials could not be reached for comment.
Although the committee report does not explain the new direction the
FBI is taking, it does say that "a revised strategy for this initiative
has recently been submitted and is currently under review by the committee."
The new funding and the program's re-designation were included in the
House Appropriations Committee report released June 14. In the report, the
committee recommends that the FBI get $39.3 million next year for the program.
That amount would be in addition to $20 million it is slated to receive
next year in base funding toward electronic crime-fighting efforts and on
top of $80 million it has accrued in prior years for a total of $139 million,
according to the committee's report.
According to the industry expert, that kind of funding will go a long
way toward giving the bureau the system it originally envisioned several
years ago. But the ISI strategy would have depended heavily on legacy phone
systems and would have cost up to $430 million more than its proposed five-year
"With today's technology, we can go much further down the road" for less
money, he said.
Congressional concerns of bureau cost overruns on computer projects seemed
to kill off the program last year. In December, the FBI called off plans
to enter into a contract that would have gotten the ambitious program up
and running when it became apparent the money would not be there.
Congress has kept bureau spending on the program on a tight leash since
it budgeted $20 million toward software and hardware purchases in 1999.
Then, Congress barred the FBI from actually spending money on the project
until congressional appropriators approved plans for the program.
That directive was reiterated in the House committee's June 14 report.
Early last year, when the bureau submitted plans for its Information
Sharing Initiative to the Appropriations Committee, a Justice Department
official acknowledged that the bureau's reputation for managing its computer
project budgets was poor.
Congressional concerns over the program's cost were owed to "the sins
of the past," said Stephen Colgate, assistant attorney general for administration
at the Justice Department.