F.B.I. Computer System Delayed
F.B.I. officials said yesterday that they would not be able to fully deploy a long-awaited computer system to manage the bureau’s case files before the end of the year as promised, and that they could not predict when the entire system would be in place. As a result, an important technological component of the administration’s domestic security effort remains in limbo.
The Virtual Case File system, which would allow agents to share information easily Ã¢€” a critical shortcoming of the present system Ã¢€” is already two years behind schedule and one bureau official who spoke on condition of anonymity went so far as to suggest that the program might ultimately have to be abandoned.
Other F.B.I. officials denied that the situation was that dire, but they acknowledged that the program development was far slower than the bureau had initially expected. In a statement released Friday in response to inquiries from The New York Times, the bureau stated that it “continues testing” the system to “work through some remaining issues.”
Officials said that instead of setting up a fully functional system by the end of the year, they would begin with a version of Virtual Case File that will have a small set of its planned functions in a small number of sites, probably including F.B.I. headquarters. “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, the chief information officer for the F.B.I. “You can’t do that with 28,000 users.”
I don’t see why not; companies do that all the time. Presumably, there is something more complex with this system than, say, networking an Access database. But it would be nice to get a better explanation of why this is. Delays in designing complex software make sense to me; delays in distributing it don’t.