FBI targeted for reforms

Senate Judiciary Committee testimony: FBI oversight hearing

The FBI's antiquated computer system will be under a microscope in the coming months. Attorney General John Ashcroft on June 20 ordered a comprehensive review of the FBI, including its computer systems.

Ashcroft's review comes as lawmakers express increasing concerns about problems at the FBI, including the failure to turn over thousands of documents in connection with the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The delay in handing over those documents has been blamed in part on the FBI's inadequate computer systems.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first of a series of hearings that will look into management problems at the bureau, and the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would create a new post of deputy inspector general at the Justice Department, who would be responsible for overseeing the FBI. Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the bill also proposes $55 million — a $10 million increase from the Bush administration's fiscal 2002 budget request — for the Justice IG.

"This legislation signifies a major step forward in our effort to improve the operations of the FBI," Sensenbrenner said.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice IG Glenn Fine and former Justice IG Michael Bromwich said that the IG's office has been hindered by a lack of funding. "The resources provided to us have not kept pace" with the IG's expanded responsibility or with the Justice Department's growth, Fine testified.

Meanwhile, in a memo to Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Ash.croft ordered a comprehensive review to "identify and recommend actions dedicated to improving and upgrading the performance of the FBI."

The Strategic Management Council, an organization created by Ashcroft to provide long-range planning, will conduct the review.

Ashcroft said the council's review will include a study of the FBI's policies and practices by an outside company, focusing on information technology, crisis management, performance appraisals and other personnel issues.

The Justice IG is already conducting two investigations — one into the issues surrounding the loss of the McVeigh files and another prompted by the arrest of Robert Hanssen, a longtime FBI counterintelligence agent who is accused of spying for the Russians for at least 15 years.

In addition, William Webster, former director of the FBI and CIA, is leading a group that will make recommendations for improving the bureau's national security measures. Launched in the wake of Hanssen's arrest, that review is focusing on the FBI's IT security procedures.

Ashcroft asked that those investigations be completed by Nov. 1 so the findings can be incorporated into the Strategic Management Council's report, which will be completed by January.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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