The Federal Bureau of Investigation's
Management of the Trilogy Information Technology Modernization Project
Audit Report No. 05-07
Office of the Inspector General
In May 2002, the FBI Director announced a major reorganization to accomplish the FBI’s top priority of preventing terrorism. To support this transition to a redesigned and refocused agency, FBI officials have repeatedly highlighted the need for new and improved information technology (IT) systems. Consequently, upgrading IT to successfully perform the FBI’s mission is among the FBI’s highest priorities.
Even before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI realized that its IT infrastructure and case tracking system were antiquated and in desperate need of modernization. However, the September 11 attacks and subsequent focus on terrorism prevention underscored the need for IT modernization so that investigative information would be readily available throughout the FBI for analysis and "connecting the dots."
The obsolete and severely limited capability of the FBI’s IT has been well-documented in prior Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports and congressional testimony.3 In July 2002, a former FBI project management executive testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that agents must go through 12 computer screens just to upload one document in the Automated Case Support (ACS) system, the FBI’s primary investigative computer application that uploads and stores case files electronically. The former FBI executive stated, "there’s no mouse, there’s no icon, there’s no year 2000 look to it, it’s all very keyboard intensive." The limited capabilities of the ACS and its lack of user-friendliness meant that agents and analysts could not easily acquire and link information across the FBI, and some personnel avoided the system altogether.
In March 2004, the Director referred to the FBI’s IT structure, including the ACS system, as archaic. He added that at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI’s technology systems were several generations behind industry standards, and existing legacy systems were approaching the 30-year mark. Other FBI managers have stated that the implementation of Trilogy is vital to modernizing the FBI’s IT infrastructure, and consequently to the FBI’s ability to effectively perform its mission, including managing investigative cases and sharing information FBI-wide to help prevent terrorist attacks. While FBI officials stated that Trilogy is not intended to provide the FBI with a state-of-the-art IT system, it is intended to lay the technological foundation so that an effective IT system can be built. A former Special Agent–in-Charge in the FBI’s New York City Field Office stated that "Trilogy must improve the FBI’s IT systems. There is just no other way that agents can continue operating with such limited abilities."
As discussed in the OIG report entitled Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Management of Information Technology Investments, issued in December 2002, the FBI recognized in the 1990s that its IT infrastructure was aging and in need of modernization. Beginning in 1997, the FBI proposed improvements to its IT infrastructure and office automation. However, its major IT modernization projects went unfunded, including the Information Sharing Initiative (ISI) in 1998 and eFBI in 2000.
As a result, the FBI’s IT had not been substantially improved since the early 1990s, and there was an increasingly urgent need to modernize the FBI’s obsolete IT capabilities. According to FBI documents, by September 2000:
To address the need to modernize the FBI’s IT systems, the FBI proposed a major technology upgrade plan to Congress in September 2000 called the FBI Information Technology Upgrade Project (FITUP). Congress appropriated $379.8 million in November 2000 to fund FITUP over a 3-year period, and the project was renamed Trilogy. The three general objectives of this IT modernization project were to:
In furtherance of these three general objectives, Trilogy was intended to upgrade the FBI’s: 1) hardware and software, known as the Information Presentation Component (IPC); 2) communication networks, known as the Transportation Network Component (TNC); and 3) the five most important investigative applications, known as the User Applications Component (UAC).4
The IPC and TNC upgrades were designed to provide the physical infrastructure needed to run user applications. The IPC refers to how users view and interact with information. It provides modern desktop computers, servers, and commercial off-the-shelf office automation software, including a web-browser and e-mail to enhance usability by FBI employees. The TNC is the complete communications infrastructure and support needed to create, run, and maintain the FBI’s networks. It is intended to be the means by which the FBI electronically communicates, captures, exchanges, and accesses investigative information. The TNC includes high capacity wide-area and local-area networks, authorization security, and encryption of data transmissions and storage.
The UAC portion was intended to upgrade and consolidate what were seen as the 5 most important of the FBI’s 42 investigative applications. The heart of the UAC portion of Trilogy became the development of the Virtual Case File (VCF) to replace the obsolete ACS. Because the FBI has 37 other investigative applications and approximately 160 non-investigative applications that Trilogy was not going to include or replace, Trilogy was intended to be a starting point toward eventually upgrading the FBI’s entire IT environment.
According to FBI and Department officials, the Department required the FBI to use two contractors for Trilogy because the Department considered the project too large for a single contractor to manage. In December 2000, Congress approved the obligation of $100.7 million for the first year of Trilogy, with an estimated 3-year cost of $379.8 million.
The FBI combined the IPC and TNC portions of Trilogy for one of the contracts, because both components involved physical IT infrastructure enhancements. The contract for the IPC/TNC portions was awarded in May of 2001 to DynCorp, with a first year cost of $37 million. In March 2003, DynCorp merged into Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC).
The FBI awarded Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) the UAC portion of Trilogy in June 2001, with a first year cost of $14.7 million. The UAC defined the software-based capabilities and functions that employees can use to access and analyze investigative information. The UAC was intended to provide the FBI with:
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI reviewed the two Trilogy contracts — infrastructure and applications — to determine if the project would still meet the FBI’s needs in light of the agency’s changed priorities. The FBI also developed plans to accelerate the completion of Trilogy because at the time the project’s 3-year modernization timeframe was considered too long.
In addition to timeframe concerns, the review of the Trilogy contracts identified a significant design limitation. Simply providing web-enablement, or Graphical User Interface, to the ACS as originally envisioned would not yield the investigative case management capabilities required in the post-September 11 era.5 A Trilogy project manager told us that the ACS only serves as a backup to the FBI’s paper file system, that information within the system cannot be changed or updated, and the technology is still severely outdated.6 Because the ACS is archaic, retaining the system as first envisioned under Trilogy would preclude the FBI from developing a modern system to make both criminal and terrorist investigation information readily accessible FBI-wide.7
But while implementation of Trilogy would mark a significant modernization of the FBI’s past IT environment, the project only represented the first major steps in upgrading the FBI’s IT capabilities to fully support its mission. Or as one former FBI Chief Information Officer (CIO) stated to the OIG in February 2002, the Trilogy modernization project will get the FBI’s IT "out of the ditch and moving in the right direction." Additionally, because the FBI’s IT systems were in such need of improvement, FBI management pressed to implement the Trilogy project as quickly as possible.
Recognizing the poor state of its IT even before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI was examining options to accelerate the planned 3-year Trilogy project. In its July 6, 2001, Quarterly Congressional Status Report the FBI stated that the IPC/TNC infrastructure could be completed in June 2003, nearly one year ahead of schedule, with a two-phase implementation plan. The FBI also wanted to accelerate deployment of the urgently needed user applications component, which was scheduled to take three years.
The September 11 attacks provided even greater impetus to completing Trilogy, and the FBI continued to explore options to accelerate deployment of all three Trilogy components. The FBI informed Congress in its February 2002 Quarterly Congressional Status Report that it had developed a new plan with DynCorp to complete the IPC/TNC phases by December 31, 2002, or nearly 18 months earlier than originally planned. Additionally, the status report stated that SAIC had developed a plan to make the ACS web-enabled by July 2002 – 24 months earlier than scheduled – without increasing project costs.
The FBI also informed Congress in its February 2002 report that with an additional $70 million in FY 2002 funding, the FBI could further accelerate the deployment of Trilogy. This acceleration would include completing the IPC/TNC phases by July 2002 instead of December 2002, and delivering by March 2004 (four months early) the most important analytical tools as part of the UAC phase. Congress supplemented Trilogy’s FY 2002 budget with $78 million from the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of January 2002 to expedite the deployment of all three components. This appropriation increased the total funding of Trilogy from $379.8 million to $457.8 million.8
In December 2002, the FBI identified a need for an additional $137.9 million to complete the Trilogy program. Congress subsequently approved a $110.9 million reprogramming request to help meet this need. This reprogramming was anticipated to fund Dyncorp’s estimates to complete the IPC/TNC portions of Trilogy, as negotiated, as well as an estimate of SAIC’s costs to complete the UAC portion of the project. The reprogramming increased the FBI’s total available funding for Trilogy to $568.7 million. Another $4.3 million for operations and maintenance and $8 million for computer specialist contractor support were added in FY 2003 for a total of $581.1 million. According to FBI documents, by the end of January 2004 the FBI had obligated about $559.6 million for Trilogy. The following table shows Trilogy’s budget, by component area, as of January 2004.9
Trilogy Budget by Component Area
Trilogy’s Development Schedule
In addition to the Trilogy project’s infrastructure and application components, the original Trilogy plan included a management process function, referred to as Program Management. Trilogy was to be managed under a Deputy Assistant Director, dedicated solely to the program, within the FBI’s Information Resources Division. The Division employees who were responsible for the Trilogy program were to have no responsibilities outside of the Trilogy project. Shortly after the initiation of the Trilogy project, however, the FBI made management changes, including establishing a CIO position. The CIO brought in a Project Management Executive to manage the Trilogy project in place of the Deputy Assistant Director in the Information Resources Division.
Over the course of the Trilogy project, the FBI acquired contractor assistance to work on the project. For example, contractor computer specialists were brought into the Trilogy project in January 2002 when the FBI tried to accelerate the Trilogy project. The specialists, budgeted at $8 million, worked on infrastructure aspects of the project. A project integration contract was approved through the FBI’s $20 million reprogramming request in December 2002.10 However, the integrator, SAIC, was not brought on until the end of 2003. In an effort to limit costs, the FBI has initiated a contract termination. As of April 2004, SAIC had received over $2.8 million for project integration services.
At the outset of FITUP/Trilogy, the Department required the FBI to use two contractors because the project was so large. To expedite the contracting process, the FBI decided to use the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Millennia contracting process. The GSA’s Federal Technologies Services’ Federal Systems Integration and Management (FEDSIM) Center provides IT contracting services for its federal agency clients. FEDSIM’s role is to oversee competing contracts, and to award and manage existing contracts. In other words, FEDSIM acts as the contracting office. FEDSIM developed Millennia for contracts involving software engineering, system integration, or communications. Pre-approved contractors who could bid on an IT system contract were identified, and as a result contracts could be awarded much more quickly than through the traditional process where hundreds of bids might have to be evaluated. With Millennia, 11 contractors under the auspices of FEDSIM competed for the 2 Trilogy contracts. The Trilogy contract was offered as a cost-plus-award fee on labor whereby the contractors’ costs are reimbursed and fees can be awarded to the contractor. Some smaller aspects of the contract were fixed-price. According to FEDSIM officials, a cost-plus-award-fee contract is not unusual for developing a system where there are many unknowns and risks, and the contract allows for sharing the risk between the contractor and the contracting agency.
The Department also initially required that the FBI perform the project integration function rather than hiring a contractor. A project integrator manages how each piece of the project will fit together smoothly. Because the Trilogy project included hardware, networking, and user application components, the integrator would determine when the equipment associated with the hardware and networking portions would be ready for the user applications to be installed and utilized. However, the FBI did not have sufficient project integration expertise, especially for such a large and complicated IT project.
Although an outside project integrator was not hired at this time, the FBI used a contractor, Mitretek Systems, to assist the FBI with a wide array of tasks, including program and contract management, system engineering and architecture, fiscal and budgetary oversight, communications, testing, configuration management, cost estimating, acquisition and source selection, requirements definition, training, database management, security certification and accreditation, and web development.