Members of Congress are angry about troubles with a massive upgrade of the FBI computer system, the Los Angeles Times reports. They accuse bureau officials of misleading them and acknowledge that millions in additional funds will be needed to fix it. The Times reported that the FBI may scrap a $170-million computer program designed to help agents share information to ward off terrorist attacks. The software is part of a four-year, $581-million computer system overhaul that has been mired in cost overruns and delays. The software, Virtual Case File, is now considered outdated and inadequate. FBI director Robert Mueller was quoted by Associated Press as saying that the bureau hoped to salvage the software.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said he had been assured in May that the software would be completed by the end of 2004 – a year behind schedule – and that it would give the FBI “cutting-edge technology.” Charles Grassley of Iowa, a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, said, “I hope we haven’t just been pouring money down a rathole at taxpayers’ expense.” Until recently, much of the FBI – including some field agents – lacked such basic features as e-mail. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the FBI’s hardware, software, and communications networks, built up at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, were revealed as severely outmoded.