Senate urges increased Justice IT oversight

The Senate appropriations bill for the Justice Department would set aside money to strengthen the role of the department's chief information officer and increase oversight of information technology projects.

The recommendation from the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved the Justice bill earlier this month, includes reorganizing the duties of the Justice Department Office of the Chief Information Officer to focus on information sharing, securing information, providing cost-effective and reliable IT services and improving IT program performance.

Also, the committee approved $2.5 million to strengthen the CIO's role as manager of department projects and $7 million to increase CIO management and oversight of IT security.

"The department has struggled to keep pace with the rapid change in information technology, which has been only further complicated by the decentralized structure and extensive delegation of these responsibilities to the department's components," the committee wrote.

The committee directed Attorney General John Ashcroft to submit a report by Nov. 15 detailing a spending plan and "the role the CIO will play with respect to the department's components, prior to the obligation of any of these funds."

Similarly, in July, the House Appropriations committee approved a bill that includes a $7 million increase for information security upgrades, and "reminds the Justice Department that all information technology reprogramming must be certified by the department's CIO to ensure coordination of resources."

The committee did not recommend funding for an Identification Systems Integration Account. The administration had sought to merge funding for several systems — including the Joint Automated Booking System (JABS) and the fingerprint identification system — into one account.

"Historically, such mergers have hindered program progress and complicated program oversight," the committee report stated.

Instead, the committee recommended $23.2 million for JABS, which automates the collection of fingerprints and related data during the booking process. The committee did not include funding for the integration of the Automated Biometric Identification System and the Integrated Fingerprint Identification System. Senators said that effort falls under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Department.

By comparison, the House bill includes $20.7 million for JABS and the integrated fingerprint systems, about $13.4 million below the request.


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