Where's The Checkbox For 'New FBI Computer System Is So Bad I Plan To Go On A Crime Spree'?
from the nice-work dept
Back in 2004, we wrote about how hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent over the previous four years on a new computer system for the FBI that apparently didn’t actually work and was useless at finding terrorists. After that was announced, it still took the FBI another seven months before announcing they were getting rid of the system. After that, it still took another year for them to agree to spend hundreds of millions on a new system that won’t be ready until 2009 at the earliest. Is it any wonder that FBI employees who are working on the computer system already feel the need to hack the system just to get some work done?
If you’re wondering how this all came to be, the Washington Post has now done an in-depth report on just how screwed up the process was for building the FBI’s computer system. Basically, the FBI handed the project over to the government’s favorite secretive tech supplier, SAIC. Rather than actively manage the process, they more or less let SAIC define what it should do. There’s some disagreement over who made this decision, but it included having SAIC build a system from scratch — rather than modify available off-the-shelf offerings (something the FBI insists it won’t do this time). So, you have a government contractor given a multi-million computer project, little oversight and loosely defined objectives. SAIC did pretty much what you’d expect. They took a lot of money from the government (or, if you’d like, from the taxpayers), wrote lots of code, but didn’t bother much to make sure it did what the FBI needed it to do. The best part of the article is the quote from a computer science professor who reviewed the system and noted the pure stupidity of trying to launch an entirely new computer system at once with no backup plan, rather than phase it in gradually: “A bunch of us were planning on committing a crime spree the day they switched over. If the new system didn’t work, it would have just put the FBI out of business.” Comforting, huh?