FBI's New Computer System: Late, Overbudget…And Useless For Finding Terrorists

from the but,-school-kids...-and-video-game-stars? dept

Back in 2000 the FBI decided it was finally time to upgrade their computer system, realizing they were very much out of date. They set up a plan that was expected to cost $380 million and be completed in 2003. It’s now 2004 and $600 million have already been poured into it… and a new study says the system is useless in fighting terrorism. It was originally designed to help with investigations, and not counter-intelligence. Apparently, no one designing the system thought to make it flexible enough to adjust should the main focus of the FBI change at all. Instead, they just spent and spent – and are now being told they may need to start all over again from scratch. It’s not as if no one knew terrorism was a threat in 2000, either. No wonder the FBI remains so good at tracking down kids file sharing, but can’t seem to distinguish video game villains from real terrorists.

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Comments on “FBI's New Computer System: Late, Overbudget…And Useless For Finding Terrorists”

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dorpus says:

Reflection of public tastes

Before 9-11, much public discourse focused on the evils of federal government, how they were wasting precious taxpayer dollars on useless pork barrell projects. A significant minority argued that federal government should be abolished, that the whole notion of a nation-state is an anachronism, that free markets will take care of everything, so we don’t need representative democracy at all. It’s the same crowd of hypocrites that showed up at candlelight vigils waving American flags.

The FBI at the time was criticized for not spending enough resources to fight crime on the streets, that instead they were investigating useless “counter-intelligence” threats, relics of a bygone Cold War era. Politicians competed to say bad things about the CIA/FBI intelligence apparatus, that the CIA should be abolished. People argued that Osama was just a “straw man”, an imaginary foe invented by Washington because “America needs an enemy”.

For similar reasons, it is often very difficult for government agencies to obtain up-to-date computer systems. Budgets are subject to many months of acrimonious debate, by which time software has been upgraded several versions. But since the original budget called for a particular version, the agency may be required by law to purchase the outdated software/hardware anyway. If the agency deviates from this, then hearings will take place on Capitol Hill about “$400 toasters”, etc., and the masses are whipped up into a frenzy of anger over “government waste”.

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