Mueller: No decision yet on VCF

The FBI has not decided whether to scrap its Virtual Case File effort, despite an outside evaluator's recommendation to do so, said director Robert Mueller today during a Senate hearing.

"We are looking at that," Mueller said while testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A report by the Justice Department inspector general report says that FBI officials are already planning to award a contract by April 30 to develop a new framework for a multi-agency case management system. The new Federal Investigative Case Management System "will provide a blueprint to guide the FBI in eventually acquiring the capabilities that the current (case file) effort has been unable to accomplish," the report states.

Mueller said he shares responsibility for the apparent failure of Virtual Case File System. FBI management failed to control the project's development, he added. The Justice Department may sue contractor Science Applications International Corp. to recover some of the $170 million in case file costs, Mueller said.

SAIC officials disputed the notion that their company failed to meet expectations. "We feel we fully complied with the contract we had," said Arnold Punaro, SAIC executive vice president, speaking after the hearing. He said he's not worried about any possible actions from the Justice Department.

FBI officials submitted change requests at a rate of 1.3 per day, Punaro said. "I don't know what their requirements are, I don't think they know what their requirements are," he said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Virtual Case File has been like "a train wreck in slow motion."

Case management "shouldn't be rocket science," Leahy said. "Most companies have to do it. It should be doable."

Leahy also complained that Mueller in May assured senators that Virtual Case File was on track for deployment by the end of 2004. But at the time of Mueller's testimony, the program "was already on life support," according to the inspector general report, Leahy said.

Mueller said at the time he still expected that by the end of the year a substantial portion of the problems would be resolved, he said. "I am guilty of raising expectations," Mueller said today.

Virtual Case File may not be the FBI's only information technology problem, Mueller said. Although he told the committee that the issue is not related to classified information, the FBI director declined to describe the problem further, tell Leahy that the matter is "an issue which I should probably raise to you in private."

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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