Monday, January 17, 2005

Biggest Setback in the GWOT?

What went wrong?

The biggest setback in the Global War on Terror may have nothing to do with Iraq, Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, WMD stockpiles, Madrid bombings, or Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi. A blow for the Islamists may have been struck inadvertently by our own hand. And that setback may have occurred on our own soil, in the conference rooms, cubicles, and server rooms of the FBI and one of their largest contractors, Science Applications International Corporation.

According to USA Today:

"The FBI said Thursday that it probably will scrap nearly all of a $170 million computer program that was being designed to help agents share information to stop terrorism - because it doesn't work.

The software, known as Virtual Case File, has been in development for four years and is the third phase of a $500 million overhaul of technology in the bureau.

The FBI contracted with Science Applications International of San Diego to develop software four years ago because the technology did not exist to manage the records and evidence generated during investigations."

Now systems implementation debacles are routine in corporate America, where many things can go wrong - from poor requirements assessment, through insufficient application gap analysis, to data conversion and integration issues, to platform and technology problems, incomplete testing routines, and cultural change-management issues.

But methodologies exist to reduce the likelihood of failure. And the U.S. is a world leader in making system solutions work. And there isn’t a more important system integration issue on the planet than insuring that the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and other agencies can share information about potential terrorists effectively. Now this article is vague on the causes of the problem, but I want to know – What went wrong?