VCF assessor: Stop funding

An independent contractor hired by FBI officials to assess the Virtual Case File recommends that they stop funding the project, according to a Justice Department official.

Virtual Case File "turned out to be a bit of a pig, because it's custom coded," said the official, who could speak only on condition of anonymity. The $170 million effort designed to allow FBI agents to electronically circulate investigation reports is more than a year late. To date, only one tenth of the project is complete, an FBI official said on an anonymous basis at a background briefing last week. Bureau officials hired Aerospace to conduct an independent project assessment, the official added.

In addition to criticizing Virtual Case File for its custom-code construction, the Aerospace report also concludes that Science Applications International Corp., the case-file developer, did a poor coding job, the Justice official said.

"We stand behind the quality of our work, and we're waiting for the reports to be published," a company spokesman said.

The bureau will move to a commercial or government off-the-shelf case management system, the official said.

Justice officials are working on the Federal Investigative Case Management Systems (FICMS), an initiative to install common information-sharing solutions for all federal agencies that conduct investigations into lawbreaking.

The official said the FICMS request for proposals will include the FBI's needs that the Virtual Case File system would have addressed. "The onus for technology is not on us, but on the market, as it should be." The RFP should be released in the first half of 2005, the official added.

The contract award will go to a vendor with a solution that can accept modular additions, the official added. "We're not going to do the whole kitchen sink all in one RFP," the official said.

One drawback to Virtual Case File was that it could not be updated.

After FBI case management needs are initially meet, the FICMS initiative will ensure that Homeland Security Department officials have a compatible case management system, the official said.

Resistance by FBI agents to a new electronic system is a major challenge, the official said. The Robert Hanssen spy scandal also left enduring wounds to the bureau's technology modernization effort, he said. "Talk about once bitten and twice shy. They didn't have good controls in place, and he was able to track the investigation of himself" by monitoring bureau computer traffic.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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