(AP) -- FBI Director Robert Mueller told lawmakers
Tuesday he still doesn't know how much it will cost
to complete the bureau's computer overhaul, already
well over budget and behind schedule.
refused to state publicly the cost of the initial
phase of the Sentinel system, the planned successor
to a failed project that was supposed to greatly
improve management of terrorism and other criminal
are certain sensitivities involved," Mueller
told the Senate Appropriations Committee's Commerce,
Justice and Science subcommittee, explaining that
the FBI soon would invite contractors to compete for
The FBI has
yet to estimate Sentinel's total cost, he said.
explanation did little to mollify skeptical senators
who have severely criticized the FBI's computer
suggest stonewalling the staff up here is not the
way to do it," said Sen. Patrick Leahy,
said a cost estimate would be ready in early spring
for a new system to replace the Virtual Case File,
which has cost taxpayers more than $100 million.
Virtual Case File was to have been the final piece
of the FBI's upgrade of its antiquated computer
system, an instantaneous and paperless way for
agents and analysts to manage all types of
attacks of September 11, 2001, Mueller made
improvement of the agency's computer systems a
priority. Members of Congress and the independent
Sept. 11 commission said the overhaul was critical
to enabling the FBI and intelligence agencies to
"connect the dots" in preventing attacks.
The first two
phases of the "Trilogy" project --
deployment of a high-speed, secure FBI computer
network and 30,000 new desktop computers -- have
upgrade already is 2 1/2 years behind schedule and,
at nearly $600 million, more than 25 percent over
its initial budget. The Sentinel system will not be
done until at least 2008, Mueller has said.