FBI CIO: You get what you pay for

The FBI doesn’t have enough money to pay for essential information technology services such as e-mail, its chief information officer said today.

For example, the FBI receives $300 million a year to support 42,000 federal, state, local and contractor partners in law enforcement worldwide, said FBI’s CIO Zalmai Azmi. That averages to about $7,100 per person.

“You can do the math and tell if I have enough money,” Azmi said at a breakfast meeting sponsored by Input, a market research and analysis group.

The bureau got a black eye March 20 when press accounts revealed that it couldn’t afford e-mail accounts with the ic.fbi.gov domain name for all of its 2,000 agents in New York City. Only 100 agents in that city have BlackBerries.

The $10 million the bureau receives each year for its growing unclassified network barely covers costs, Azmi said. The bureau can afford e-mail accounts for only 22,000 of its 30,000 employees, Azmi said. “It’s purely an issue of funding,” he added.

The FBI has set up rooms with computer kiosks in offices where not everyone has an account or a computer, Azmi said. The bureau plans to have all 56 field offices connected to the Internet by the end of the year.

Only a few groups of agents get BlackBerries and other Internet-connected phone service because the annual fees are between $1,400 and $1,600 per user, Azmi said.

Eventually, every agent will have a computer connected by three fiber-optic cables, one each for secret, top secret and unclassified information, Azmi said. He said he will put in a budget submission to pay for all the IT upgrades.

Azmi is not alone in his money woes, said Jim Krouse, Input’s acting director of market analysis. “Everybody is feeling a bit underfunded,” Krouse said, because the Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to show what they’re spending on and demonstrate performance from the money they do get.

“Spending ad nauseum is over,” Krouse said.

The Bush administration wants to look like it is spending money carefully, but the news isn’t all bad, Krouse said. He expects supplemental spending next year for the Justice, Defense and Homeland Security departments, if they qualify under OMB rules.

Federal IT spending remained nearly flat from fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2007. Input predicts that Justice’s budget will rise 7.1 percent in the next five years, compared with 4.2 percent for federal IT overall.

The department expects to issue two large IT contracts by this summer, Krouse said. Input expects a request for proposals for the MEGA 3 Automated Litigation Support Services program by mid-2006, he said.

The five-year program, which would manage all litigation-based information, has an estimated value of $950 million, he said. It calls for designing and creating a new database, which means “setting up database framework and logic, and that can be pricey,” he said.

The second program is the Next Generation Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System contract. Krouse said he anticipates an RFP for the program by the summer. The contract’s value is estimated at $200 million, an increase from $152 million for fiscal 2006.

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