Shock to the System
After Sept. 11, FBI Moves on Delayed Improvements
- By Carole Shifrin
- Dec 20, 2001
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and subsequent plans to reorganize the Justice Department have set in motion changes that will accelerate long-delayed improvements in the information technology capabilities of the FBI.
Last month, Attorney General John Ashcroft instructed the heads of Justice Department components, including the FBI, to take action in three major areas to shift the department's focus from investigating and prosecuting past crimes to identifying threats of future terrorists.
These areas ? information sharing, information analysis and coordination ? will mean increased focus and spending on advanced information technology programs.
"We must have information technology from this decade, not several generations ago, so we can share intelligence," Ashcroft said. "Major city police departments are better equipped than the Justice Department is today."
The FBI and its IT programs already were under scrutiny in several evaluations, including one initiated by Ashcroft in June. This probe included hiring Chicago-based Andersen to perform a comprehensive review of the FBI's organizational structure and mission, including its procurement and maintenance of IT systems.
The state of the FBI's infrastructure and IT programs ? or lack thereof ? also was being assessed by former IBM Corp. executive Bob Dies, who was brought into the agency in July 2000 by then-FBI Director Louis Freeh to revitalize its aging systems.
As assistant director of the FBI's Information Resources Division, Dies has what Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called the Herculean task of upgrading the FBI's IT capability.
Dies candidly told the Judiciary Committee this summer that the FBI knew its information technology needed repair, that the agency had begun to correct the basic problems and position it for the future, but that the changes wouldn't happen overnight.
"For a variety of reasons, the FBI information technology has had no meaningful improvements in over six years," Dies said. "Some parts of our system are much older."
For example, more than 13,000 of the FBI's desktops are four to eight years old and could not run today's basic software, he said. Moreover, most of the agency's smaller offices are connected to the internal network at speeds lower than many individuals have at their homes. Agents are unable to store electronically much of their investigative information in the agency's primary investigative databases.
"Fundamentally, at the dawn of the 21st century, the FBI is asking its agents and support personnel to do their jobs without the tools other companies use or that you may use at home on your system," Dies said.
The FBI's antiquated computer system is just one of its problems. The agency's two other pressing IT needs are a state-of-the-art security program and a world-class records management system, Dies said.
Those needs were highlighted amid criticism of the FBI on three fronts: the arrest of longtime FBI agent Robert Hanssen as a Russian spy; the loss of hundreds of agency laptop computers, some with classified material; and the mishandling of thousands of documents related to the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
In addition, there have been continuing complaints, even after the events of Sept. 11 underscored the need for information sharing, that there has been a failure of coordination among federal, state and local agencies in the war on terrorism. Rumors are rife about interagency squabbles and turf wars, and the embattled FBI also now faces congressional and public disappointment with its progress in the investigation into the mailed anthrax spores.
According to FBI officials, the agency has made substantial IT investments during the past 10 years, but the programs generally have supported state and local law enforcement efforts, such as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, required for prospective gun buyers; and specific targeted national programs, such as Combined DNA Index System, a database for violent offender identification, and the National Infrastructure Protection Center for safeguarding physical and cyber-based systems considered essential for operating government and the U.S. economy.
The multimillion-dollar, three-year Trilogy program, set in motion six months ago, is expected to serve as the foundation to upgrade infrastructure technologies throughout the FBI. The three-component program includes:
? A network using high-speed connections to link FBI offices;
? Upgraded standard hardware and software in each FBI office that will link all employees to the entire agency;
? User-specific software tools to enhance agents' ability to organize, access and analyze information.
About 65 percent of the FBI's 11,400 agents and 16,400 other employees work in field installations, making it essential to update these communications and IT systems. The agency has 56 field offices, 400 satellite offices known as resident agencies, four specialized field installations, 35 foreign liaison posts and four IT centers.
Trilogy is the renamed, redefined and reduced-scope version of the 1997 Information Sharing Initiative that for a while was called eFBI. The program will cost an estimated $250 million. Congress authorized spending of $100.7 million on Trilogy for fiscal 2001 and is expected to approve $142.4 million in funding for fiscal 2002.
In May, the FBI awarded two components of the Trilogy project to DynCorp of Reston, Va. On the DynCorp team are Getronics Government Solutions LLC, CACI International Inc., GTSI Corp., Oracle Corp., Baltimore Technologies, Orizon Inc., Trusted Computer Solutions Inc., Advanced Technology Systems Inc., EMC Corp. and Microsoft Corp. Under the contract, the DynCorp team will upgrade about 27,000 desktops and 350 servers at 650 locations worldwide to a common system. They also will implement high-speed local- and wide-area network communications at the agency.
The three-year task order, valued at $51 million for the first year and about $132 million over its life, was awarded under Millennia, a governmentwide contract vehicle managed by the General Services Administration.
In June, Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego picked up the third piece of Trilogy in another three-year task order, called the user application component, to provide the software applications and data bases used by FBI agents in their investigations.
The value of this component is about $14 million in the first year and more than $80 million over the life of the contract. SAIC's team includes IBM Corp., Allied Technology Group, Indus Corp. and Cairo Corp.
Dana Hall, SAIC group senior vice president, said the team is offering a modular architecture emphasizing use of commercial products where possible. Some custom software not available in the open marketplace, however, will be needed to glue together the commercial pieces and the sought-after functionality, Hall said.
Deploying SAIC's user-application component to agents requires the foundation DynCorp is building, Hall said, but the two are cooperating through joint working groups and forums with the FBI.
The objective is to get to the agents as much capability as quickly as possible, with some elements of the project to be rolled out to agents later in spring next year.
Although the ambitious Trilogy project was designed to take three years, the FBI and its contractors are hoping it can be compressed into two.
"After Sept. 11, we're looking for ways to get it out faster into the field," Hall said. "It's tough, but we're all doing the best we can."
The recent events have created a sort of war-stimulated environment, he said.
"What's changed, I think, is emphasis," Hall said. Everyone wants "to do as much as possible" to get tools and improved capabilities to investigate into the field as soon as possible.
SAIC is one of the FBI's largest IT contractors and may be the longest-serving of those providing development and support services, with work dating back 18 years.
SAIC developed and provides technical support for the forensic science computer systems and reference files that assist in DNA analyses and matching, including the Combined DNA Index System. The DNA project, always relevant to criminal investigations, has been especially important in identifying victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
SAIC also created and now maintains the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, mandated by the Brady law; and developed the Interstate Identification Index portion of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS.
Another of the FBI's major IT contractors is the information systems division of Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md., which designed and built the FBI's Automated Fingerprint Identification System, known as AFIS, and provided systems integration services for the overall IAFIS program.
The company also developed a scanning system for converting fingerprints on cards mailed in to the FBI to an electronic format. Cards are still used by many local police and education departments that require background checks, said Steve Otsuki, vice president for information technology and identification solutions for the Lockheed Martin unit.
Under a five-year contract awarded in late 2000, Lockheed Martin is responsible for operating and maintaining the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division in Clarksburg, W.Va. This includes operation and support of three major automated programs: IAFIS, the NICS program and the National Crime Information Center, a computerized index of documented criminal justice data serving 80,000 agencies in the United States. The contract is worth up to $118 million.
The FBI has "taken the approach of working with contractors to create partnerships that allow the contractors and the government to work together to provide the technologies needed by that division," Otsuki said regarding the agency's CJIS division.
Lockheed Martin expects to participate in a follow-on competition for technology refreshment for AFIS, scheduled for the third quarter of 2002. The company also would expect to recompete for the operations and maintenance contract when it is recompeted under the Omnibus vehicle. SAIC also expects to participate in that competition.
With the FBI concentrating substantial resources on Trilogy and with other IT needs still being assessed, contractors are awaiting word on other potential contracts. One possibility is a proposed consolidation of the separate identification capabilities residing within the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.