If We've Already Thrown Away Hundreds Of Millions On Useless FBI Computer Systems, What's An Extra $50 Million?

from the taxpayer-money? dept

Remember the FBI's computer system? The one that wasn't just late and overbudget, but also didn't work and was useless for finding terrorists? The one that was so bad that a computer science professor asked to review the system said that he planned to commit a crime spree the day it was turned on, knowing that he'd be safe? This was the same system that it still took them several months to decide to scrap entirely, despite having invested hundreds of millions of dollars in it. Soon afterwards, of course, they announced plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on an entirely new system, because, apparently, learning from past failures is too much trouble. So, it should probably come as no surprise to find out that the FBI is complaining that the feds haven't allocated them enough money this year for the computer system, and they want another $56.7 million. Hey, when you're talking about a $500 million system, what's another $50 million or so? Of course, it does seem like there's some funny math going on here (don't need a computer for that!). They claim that despite this shortage, the project is still on schedule and within budget. Also, if the government doesn't allocate the money, they'll take it from other projects -- but claim it won't impact the budgets of anything else. Perhaps they're just going to use some counterfeit money they've seized somewhere. Considering what an awful job some of the contractors on this system have done, perhaps they deserver some funny money instead of taxpayers' real cash.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:12pm

    first haha

    man, I want a job designing this system... sounds like I could just sit around all day and make big bucks.

     

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  2.  
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    Brian, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:19pm

    Probably not funny math...

    They can be 50+ million short, but still on-time and within budget. The total project cost is $500 million approximately, but they only budgeted to spend $100 million of that this year. It turns out they'll need to spend $150 million instead. Just the idiocy of governmental budgeting - we only budget one year at a time...

     

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  3.  
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    whargoul, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:19pm

    Government waste...gotta love it.

    if the government doesn't allocate the money, they'll take it from other projects -- but claim it won't impact the budgets of anything else

    If they can do that, then what are they bitching for?

    There's your tax dollars at work ladies and gentlemen.

     

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  4.  
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    Neal, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:25pm

    Give me...

    Give me 20 Million and their requirements and I'd start today, work by myself, and probably beat them to creating a usable system.

     

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  5.  
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    dorpus, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:33pm

    Unless

    while businessmen like to make their armchair boasts about "government waste", maybe the money is being spent wisely on classified systems impenetrable from the internet.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Give me...

    Even though I know nothing of Neal's qualifications to build a system; I would agree that he could probably produce a better product for much less.

     

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  7.  
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    Stute, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    How the hell do you screw up a $500 million dollar PC?

     

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  8.  
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    Andrew, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 1:05pm

    Re:

    I guess going for that vintage look, and using REAL vacuum tubes wasn't probably the best choice. Good thing this year they decided to go all out and invest in RAID reel to reel storage systems.

     

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  9.  
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    Matthew, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 1:05pm

    I will build it.

    I have an idea, how about I build it and never have to pay taxes again in exchange? Plus my friends and family and all of you guys. I mean c'mon, no wonder my paycheck gets cut in half!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 1:11pm

    do you know what it took for us to even atepmt thi

    It took us several years and a lot of hard work, why just the other day I had to reprogram a whole sting of AZ1000 speak and spell units. JO-Bob said that the stings were to short and we had to change the input buffers.. well 30,000 lines of code later It can still say MOOO, but unfortunately the duck isn't working

     

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  11.  
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    Matthew, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 1:11pm

    Re: first haha

    Can I work with you also? $550 million split two ways? You can have a 60/40 split and I will still be more than happy!

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    "How the hell do you screw up a $500 million dollar PC?"

    Put a human in front of it.

     

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  13.  
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    Asian Coward, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re:

    not just any human ... a bureaucrat...

     

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  14.  
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    Liberty Dave, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 1:44pm

    Government waste is endless...

    And we let it happen by voting for these dolts over and over again.

    In the "real" world, you know where you actually have to stick to a budget and can't go over it without losing your job or something else very bad happening, like your business closing or bad financial trouble, you can't commit this type of atrocious waste.

    But the government can, and they do, every single day.

    It's disgusting, and it goes on in many more areas than just the FBI. And you can be the company getting the contract was NOT given the contract because they're the best, brightest, or most competent. I'm sure someone who own/runs the company got the contract due to political reasons, as a favor or something.

    This is big government.

    Vote Libertarian.

     

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  15.  
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    |333173|3|_||3, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 2:18pm

    1) Read the second article down from ths pne.
    2) WTF sare the actual requireemnts, since no-one actually seems to have any idea what hey are trying to do, specifically. (I don't mean the specs, even objectives would be good to know.)
    3) Annual bugeting was a safeguard laid down in the Magna Carta as a protection for the Nobles to prevent the King ruling without Parliament in 1215. HTis forces the HEad of State to ask for money each year, rater than getting money for ten years and ignoring Parliament/Congress/whatever they call it in any given country. (THe Queen technically has veto power in the UK, she just rarely exercises it, if she was evil and got a decade of funds, she could in theory ignore parlaiment). WHile this is less of an issue in the USA, where Congress can still override a presidential veto, if you gavce Bush money for the rest of his term, he could block or delay most laws he is opposed to for long enough that they become meaningless.

     

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  16.  
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    Lanesha Young, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 2:55pm

    comment

    I am writting on behalf of my mother. She was recently fired from her job and now is about to loose everything. I really hope this is the right website for the person that I am trying to contact. She is taking care of my sister that is 19 yrs old and has two children. My sister can't currently get a job because she has noone to watch her children while she works, so my mother has been taking care of them all and now this. She is about to loose everything and she needs help really bad. I am helping as much as I possibley can. My sisters children will not have any christmas or anything, which that is erevlent right now they just really need a roof over their heads. If there is any way that you could help please help. We have proof that we are really in need.

     

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  17.  
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    Stu, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 3:36pm

    Liberty Dave said, "Vote Libertarian".

    I didn't know Libertarians were better at installing big computer systems - never saw that on the web page.

    Or would they just eliminate the FBI?

     

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  18.  
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    Monarch, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 3:40pm

    Not to be a prick or anything, Lanesha Young, but I hope that is a sarcastic comment on government waste. Otherwise, WTF?

     

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  19.  
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    No Brains Needed, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 4:04pm

    Re:

    simple. Install windows.

     

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  20.  
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    Inside Man, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 4:12pm

    500 million blown ?

    Once again the liberals are crying foul without reading or knowing all the details. For all the whop la being made no one truly understands what the situation is.

    1. The system is complete.
    2. It does do what it was designed to do.
    3. Testing was complete.
    4. It was discovered during testing that the system could not run itunes, hence the need for a rebuild.

     

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  21.  
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    Thad, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 4:28pm

    Some one pay that guy No Brains Needed he has the answer, thats got to be worth 2 or 3 million.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Done it, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 6:15pm

    It's done

    No one has ever looked at the fact that the government has already paid for and owns many up to date investigative systems. The FBI is free to take any of these systems and make them fit their needs af a fraction of the cost.

     

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  23.  
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    |333173|3|_||3, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 6:53pm

    COD?

    Pay when you get something which works, stupid. The rules should be simple: tender an offer, listing the circumstances which will require you to charge extra, and specify ythe completion date. THe amount paid drops by 10% each month after the porject is due to be completed, and no money is pad until it is done. THis way, things might get done on thime and on budget

    I agree with #18

     

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  24.  
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    OutSorze, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 2:07am

    I eez a programmer working'gu on ziss FBI seestems. And I tell you it is my-tee hard work.

     

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  25.  
    icon
    rahrens (profile), Dec 6th, 2006 @ 5:33am

    make sense

    Look, I know it's popular to slam the gov't for spending money. I don't like my taxes, either, but because I am a gov't employee, they take my paycheck out of my own salary. Funny how that works...

    @ 2 is right. The government is forced, by the Constitution, to budget money annually. That is why they can approve a project for $500 million and only budget $100 mil per year for, say, 5 years. If the project is ahead of schedule, and you don't want to slow it down (which can cost additional money), you may have to go back and ask for an advance on some of the $400 mil that is allocated for the out years. That can keep you going, and productive. If the additional money is not allowed, the delay can cost you more money to the contractor due to contractual obligations. You don't want that!

    #23, you can't do it that way. There are rules that gov't contracting officials have to adhere to, and they specify how you can and can't penalize contractors. You don't just drop the amount they are due per month, you tack on penalties, which are tied to due dates. And, no, on most contracts, a contractor doesn't get paid until after he gives the government a deliverable, or finishes a performance within a specified time period, unless he is on a cost plus fixed fee contract. On those, he gets paid for expenses periodically, and the final payment includes his fixed fee. Such contracts are most often performance contracts, which often DO include performance penalties.

    But complicated IT contracts, as many of you know, aren't simple animals. Sometimes, the requirements will change. Sometimes, when you find out that technology has changed, the customer wants more to include the new stuff. Then it's back to the drawing board, which costs more $$$. Sometimes you find out halfway through, that you just can't do it that way, and you've gotta change tactics. (Vista, anyone?)

    Yes, the FBI deserves a lot of condemnation for blowing the initial contract which bombed. It was badly managed. But asking for what is essentially an advance on future budgeted amounts, isn't necessarily bad.

    It does, however, merit watching!

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Liberty Dave, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 6:57am

    To Stu

    No, Libertarians aren't better at installing computer systems, and you're well aware of that, but I get it, you were being sarcastic, albeit poorly.

    Libertarians would do away with anything that's not specifically in the constitution, and leave the rest up to the states, as specified in the constitution.

    And Libertarians would not waste tax dollars like the two major parties, and they would severely restrict government growth...by forcing government to stick to what's specifically listed in the constitution.

    Proof of this is the fact that no libertarians ever take any "matching funds" from the government for political campaigns.

    And as to your poor sarcasm, Libertarians would go to the free market to find someone to install such a system if it were deemed neccessary, and the company responsible for installing such a system would be held accountable legally for the construction and maintenance of the system, and whatever else is specified in the contract.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Liberty Dave, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 7:02am

    To Rahrens

    It's thinking like yours that allows the government to keep growing and wasting and growing and wasting.

    You say "It does, however, merit watching!". Yeah, sure.

    We'll watch it alright. We'll watch them waste again and again and nothing will ever be done except for one or more people will be "punished" in some fashion, maybe relieved of duty or something, but then the next group of government wasters will just go back in and waste again, until caught doing something bad, then the cycle repeats itself.

    Why do we keep allowing this type of thing to happen?

    My opinion is that people are just too busy with their lives to worry too much about it, and don't want to take the time to do more about it than write down a comment on sites like this.

    If you really want this type of thing to stop you have to stop voting for the two big government parties that only care about expanding government, not about what's truly right or good for people.

     

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  28.  
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    Earl Savino, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 8:20am

    FBI - $50 Million Computer Request

    May be they could get a loan from the CIA!

     

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  29.  
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    Brad, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 8:41am

    The real reason it doesn't work

    The real reason it doesn't work is that they have no executive will to make everyone use it - and more money won't fix that.

    Everyone prefers to use the fragmented systems or procedures they already have in place, and can easily veto a move to the new system by saying "it will compromise or derail investigations and prosecutions already underway."

    At some point they will have to bite the bullet and switch over to something new, or else design a system to interoerate and use the existing systems, for example tying it together with some specially written web services middleware.

     

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  30.  
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    FRH, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 8:46am

    Standard Practice

    The US Government functions in a way that always amazes me. We in business try to apply common business logic to federal organizations and we continually return to the same conclusion, this is crazy! Cost overruns and failed projects are the fault of weak, undefined, and constantly changing requirements. CoreFLS at VA was a great example. KPMG involved in the CoreFLS project started with a 190K task order and ended up with 220 Million dollars! Nothing was ever delivered to VA and the companies involved are still out doing business with the only consequences of this failed effort was to fire a couple of VA employees and some of the companies involved changed their names. I knew those people at VA and they depended on the information they were given to make decisions. Of course they were wrong and now you have IV& V requirements in the federal space. How ridiculous is it when the government has to bring in an outside verification resource to verify they are getting what they ordered, NUTS! The government is not a business and never will be. If we are really curious about why this is try reading the "Warfare State", written in the late 50s by a former president and the supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2006 @ 10:03am

    Re: Give me...

    The first time around the requirements were constantly in flux. From someone who worked as contractor and privy to the conversations the Gov doesn’t or didn’t know what it wanted.

    Definitely a case of two many chefs in the kitchen with poor project management skills. The truth is they do have some projects that actually work and protect American citizens, unlike this abomination. It would be nice if they looked at their hiring process and hired based on skill and experience instead of someone with only education who doesn’t have a clue.

     

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  32.  
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    lil'bit, Dec 13th, 2006 @ 1:19pm

    what a joke!

    Government has never been like business nor should it be - the responsibilities and requirements are different. Those of us old enough to remember hearing Good Ol' Boy Ronnie talking about how if CEOs ran businesses the way the politicians were running the country they would be fired, bankrupt, whatever.
    Government doesn't have to make a profit; gov't spending should be dictated by need and the financing should be based on what funding is required. That's the opposite of business, where spending is dictated by revenue.

    My point though is, why do people still think business, large or small, public or private, somehow operates better than the government? Haven't you been reading the news for the past 6 or so years? Find me a company with as long a history as the US government and I'll show you a corporation with just as much waste and beauracracy as any governement.

    Here is one example of a corporation being just as stupid as the FBI. Back in the 80s (I think it was), the CEO of Levi Strauss spent millions on outside consultants to develop a restructuring plan. Shortly before implementation, that CEO left and the new one tossed out that multi-million dollar consultant's report so the new CEO could pay $$ to a different consulting firm for a different re-structuring plan.

    I cannot believe that people like the head of GM, a company that can't compete or turn a profit, earns millions of dollars a year in salary, bonus and stock options, while the little guy on the assembly line, with no power or input or control, gets to see his union negotiate wage cuts, so he can keep his job and medical benefits.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Fae Kinnitt, Dec 23rd, 2006 @ 9:32am

    Re: make sense

    *applause* Thank you for 'making sense' and explaining the process. I'm so tired of people dogging the FBI over that project when they have no clue what really happened. A little more research on the subject will explain what the objectives were and why the project was deemed a failure, if you're really that curious. Everyone has been, or will be at some point, screwed over by a contractor with "expertise" whose work you can't truly monitor or micromanage yourself. Because if that was the case, you'd do the project yourself. Or keep the project in-house. But since that's not the case, you can't really know what the end result will be until you get there..regardless of contracts and promises. In the meantime, you do the best you can to monitor the progress. Even if that means looking like an ass by having someone else (with expertise) come in to advise you that the whole thing sucks. And taxpayers will never see that money again regardless of how it's spent or wasted. And I'd rather see the FBI spend that money trying to get the system they need, than see it wasted somewhere else. I think the focus needs to be on the contractors, not the FBI. The FBI has since started a campaign to recruit more IT professionals. That, after relying on contractors for mostly everything...

     

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  34.  
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    High Ball, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 12:47am

    amendment

    it was 800 mill

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    I dont want to waste my time ! U have it Right, They Suck !!

     

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