The Federal Bureau of Investigation will be unable to able to fully use a long-awaited computer system to manage case files before the end of the year as promised, reports the New York Times. The bureau cannot not predict when the entire system would be in place. The Virtual Case File system, which would allow agents to share information easily, a critical shortcoming now, is two years behind schedule. One official who would not be quoted said the program might ultimately have to be abandoned. Other officials denied that the situation was that dire, but they acknowledged that development was far slower than the bureau had expected. Instead of setting up a functional system this year, the FBI will begin with a version of Virtual Case File that will have a small set of its planned functions in a small number of sites.
“The program is too large and too complex and too huge to say, `On Monday, you’ll come in and you’re going to have V.C.F. on your desktop,’ ” said Zalmai Azmi, FBI chief information officer. “You can’t do that with 28,000 users.” The postponement is a setback in replacing an antiquated system with shortcomings that were highlighted during investigations of the F.B.I.’s failure to detect the Sept. 11, 2001 plot. Director Robert Mueller has told senators that the computer system was so limited that it could not search for combinations of terms like “flight” and “schools”–the kind of search that might have helped to discern patterns of activity leading up to the attacks.