March 21, 2006 3:54 PM PST

FBI ripped for IT upgrade costs

The FBI squandered $10.1 million on "questionable contractor costs"--including custom-made ink pens and highlighters--and another $7.6 million on missing equipment while upgrading its computer systems, government auditors reported.

Since mid-2001, the FBI has been undertaking a massive project called Trilogy, aimed at ushering its computer systems into the 21st century, and the agency has already reached $500 million in reported costs.

One stage of the project--building a new infrastructure--was completed in April 2004. But work on a revamped electronic case-management software system has stalled, though the FBI said last week that it had awarded its main contract for the system, known as Sentinel, to defense tech giant Lockheed Martin. The agency expects that endeavor to cost $425 million over the next six years.

An 87-page report (click here for PDF) released Monday by the Government Accountability Office faults the FBI for a number of "weaknesses" in its financial dealings with contractors, including incorrect billings for overtime hours worked, potentially inflated wages, excessive and first-class airfare costs, and other invoice anomalies.

For example, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), one of the FBI's subcontractors, charged the agency $456,211 for services described only as "other direct costs." When the GAO probed the company for more information, it landed on an e-mail exchange hinting that CSC probably didn't have enough information to approve the charge but did so anyway.

Some more explicitly identified expenses also raised questions for government auditors. For instance, CACI, a subcontractor hired to do training for the project, billed the FBI for more than $50,000 to cover the cost of custom-made highlighters and pens.

The GAO faulted the FBI at length for its travel spending. According to federal regulations, all travelers reimbursed by the government must fly coach or economy class unless first-class travel is properly authorized and justified. Auditors determined that no documentation provided by the FBI or CSC could justify 19 first-class tickets, costing more than $20,000, 75 "unusually expensive" coach-class tickets, totaling more than $100,000, and other pricey fares.

The FBI was also unable to locate 1,200 pieces of equipment, including desktop and laptop computers, printers and servers, the auditors reported. In general, the agency has failed for years to keep adequate records of the gadgets it purchases, leaving the devices prone to being "lost or stolen without detection," the report charged.

Overreliance on contractors to keep tabs on equipment and other records was largely to blame for the mishaps, the auditors suggested. They recommended 27 courses of action, including more careful vetting of expenses, closer documentation of contractor charges, and revising agency policies to track equipment with a greater level of detail.

FBI representatives did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. In its written response to the GAO, the agency said it had "accounted for" more than 1,000 of the missing or improperly documented items as of January 2006. It also said it agreed with GAO's recommendations and was committed to making improvements in its management processes.

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7 comments

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What else is new?
Who should this suprise? And what about that "click here for the pdf". Is that supposed to be some ironic joke that their is actually no link there. Like the government would release any information confirming their fault?
Posted by jdeere_man (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
FBI = Fumbling Bumbling Idiots
It's an agency started by a cross-dressing queer (Hoover). What did you expect?
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
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question
First of all where are they pulling these massive amounts of money for this project from? $500 mil, another 425 over next six years. Why in the hell is it costing so much? I don't think every person in the agency needs a most souped up computer. A very decent computer costs around $500-800. And as for the costs of developing the Sentinel progam, why is it costing so much? Even if it is a entire operating system that they are building, which I think they are not, it should not cost that much. And Lockheed Martin should not get a contract for that. There are many companies out there far capable of developing systems like that for a fraction of the cost. But I guess lobby does have its hands in this. Ban of lobbying should be appropriate. What a waste of money this is. God help us. Too many billions floating around in all these sums. And they say inflation us under control. Blah.
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
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$425 Million Seems Low
I'd imagine that Sentinle is so far behind becuase nobody at the FBI can define the requirements making it impossiable for any contracting firm to deliver. I know several large companys that spend $100MM on SAP installations which are pretty vanllia compared a highly specialized application for a process nobody understands and that is suppose to be at the foundation of what the FBI does is really suppose to work.

Makes me wondering if $500MM is really enough to make this happen or if the real price is going to $1BB becuase of the cost overruns that come with tbe gov't beurcraciy.
Posted by jgo10 (7 comments )
Link Flag
Where's the Oversight and Controls on this project?
our country is $300 billion, or, even more in the red; then, add fiascos like this and other known or undiscovered monetary expenditures and losses to the totals after intrests on the borrowing to pay all the above and the result will be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars.
Then look at the cuts in education, Social Security, Medicare, Veterans Administration Medical and other programs.
There's a pattern here.
Posted by edgirard (15 comments )
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Where's the Oversight and Controls on this project?
our country is $300 billion, or, even more in the red; then, add fiascos like this and other known or undiscovered monetary expenditures and losses to the totals after intrests on the borrowing to pay all the above and the result will be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars.
Then look at the cuts in education, Social Security, Medicare, Veterans Administration Medical and other programs.
There's a pattern here.
Posted by edgirard (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How carefully did the GAO study these numbers?
$20,000/19 1st class tickets = $1052 per ticket.
$100,000/75 Coach tickets = $1333 per ticket.

So the 1st class tickets were on average cheaper than the Coach tickets they highlighted. Also keep in mind, the FBI flies in literally hundreds of consultant's to support this project each week. Sometimes you can't get a good rate. Sometimes you can't get coach. Sometimes the airline bumps you because they overbooked your seat.
Posted by HMCIV (4 comments )
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