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[infowar.de] FBI reports significant progress on IT modernization
FBI reports significant progress on IT modernization
But the Department of Homeland Security is still struggling
By DAN VERTON
JULY 23, 2003
WASHINGTON -- FBI Director Robert Mueller today told members of the
Senate Judiciary Committee that the bureau is only months away from
completing work on a massive upgrade of its global IT infrastructure.
Since the March 28 completion of the FBI's $400 million enterprise
network, known as Trilogy, the bureau has completed desktop upgrades for
all of its field offices around the world, and it's now in the process
of finishing the upgrades at its Washington headquarters, said Mueller.
In addition, he said, ongoing software upgrades, based primarily on
analyst applications and tools, are on track to be completed in
"All of these upgrades are necessary to implement what we call the
'virtual case file,'" said Mueller. "We expect to have the
user-friendly, Web-based applications for the agents online in December,
and with that will [come] the migration of much of our data to an
up-to-date database structure, which will enable us to use the latest
analytical tools to search that data."
The virtual case file plan required the bureau to re-engineer its entire
workflow process, said Mueller, whereas previous IT programs in the FBI
simply automated paper-based processes.
Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the
Judiciary Committee, said he and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)
yesterday reintroduced the FBI Reform Act, which they first introduced
in 2001. Senate Republicans blocked passage of the measure at the time.
The FBI Reform Act calls for a 10-point plan to improve FBI information
management and IT procurement. Most significant among the 10 points is a
requirement that IT management positions in the bureau be filled by
personnel with private-sector experience, as well as mandates that a
public key infrastructure be deployed and "undue" restrictions and
impediments to software acquisition be removed.
Such improvements have been necessary since before the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, said Leahy.
"I recall [asking] during that time one of the very top people in the
bureau if they had done a Google search on some of the people we were
suspecting [of being involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings], and
the response was something like, 'What is a Google search?'" said Leahy.
That is "something that their 8-year-old neighbor could have told them."
But the IT challenges facing the homeland security effort go beyond the
FBI. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) pushed Asa Hutchinson, the
undersecretary for border and transportation security at the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS), on the question of whether or not IT systems
at DHS can communicate effectively with systems at the FBI.
"Even though progress has been made in a lot of agencies, there is no
technological communication between these departments," said Durbin.
"There is a continuous flow of information from the FBI to Homeland
Security and vice versa," responded Hutchinson. However, he added, "it
is important that we develop systems that are more compatible. The
information is flowing, but it would flow better if we had more
Appearing yesterday before a joint hearing of the House Select Committee
on Homeland Security and the House Judiciary Committee, William Parish,
acting assistant secretary for Information Analysis and Infrastructure
Protection (IA/IP) at the DHS, acknowledged immediate challenges
stemming from a lack of access to IT systems (see story).
Although construction of a new facility for the IA/IP division is under
way, the division has been forced to establish work-around procedures,
such as deploying liaisons to other agencies. "This exchange of personal
and direct access to other analysts will provide essential connectivity
to ensure information is shared until all of our IT systems are in
place," said Parish. "I'm confident that these work-around measures are
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