FBI's Trilogy funding on hold

Congress is holding up money for the FBI's Trilogy modernization program because of a projected 50 percent cost overrun.

The Senate Appropriations Committee ordered the FBI to come up with a new funding package by Feb. 15 for fiscal 2003 to cover the cost overrun for the $458 million Trilogy project, which is intended to upgrade the bureau's IT infrastructure.

Congress has yet to approve the $390 billion fiscal 2003 budget for the federal government.

In the meantime, Trilogy's problems have been mounting. Last month, the Justice Department's inspector general told lawmakers that the committee was experiencing a cost overrun of $137.9 million for one year. When combined with another overrun, it translated into a 50 percent increase in the program's total cost.

"This is not a surprise," Senate appropriators said in a report filed earlier this month. "The attempt to make up for 20 years of neglect in two years of frenzied spending was destined to fail."

Although the committee has already provided a $100 million cushion in supplemental funds, that money also has been used up.

"The FBI chose to squander this reserve. So when the funds are needed, none are available," the report said.

Sen. Judd Gregg, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee panel that handles the FBI budget, said in a recent speech on the Senate floor that Trilogy has become a "disaster."

"Programs such as Trilogy do not need more money. What they need is more management," Gregg said.

He said Congress "threw" too much money at the program last year to "show we were concerned about terrorism." And as a result, he said, the program has fallen apart.

"FBI software and hardware contracts for Trilogy have essentially become gold-plated. The cost is soaring. The schedule is out of control," Gregg said. "Right now we still do not have contracts on Trilogy hardware or Trilogy software. We are completely at the mercy of the contractors."

Nevertheless, the Approptiations Committee said Trilogy is its top priority for the FBI, and it signaled its intention to find the money necessary to keep the project moving.

The FBI had no immediate comment on the appropriation decision.

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