The Prototype From Hell
At the February 2005 hearing, Mueller said that the FBI delivered "finalized" requirements for VCF in June 2002, which included integrating the functionality of the five original ACS applications with the new system. But according to Hughes, the changes kept coming at a rate of more than one per day.
Click for larger view.
What followed was the mother of all misunderstandings. In 2002, Hughes says, SAIC offered a proposal identifying December 2003 as the deployment date for VCF. He maintains, though, that as the changes rolled in, SAIC alerted the FBI that the cost and delivery date would be seriously affected. Ultimately, instead of a final version, what SAIC delivered in December 2003 was an incomplete system for evaluation.
The result, according to Hughes, was consternation. "Apparently the communication about what was going on in the project had not gone up the chain in the FBI and in [the Department of] Justice and in Congress;" he says, "and when we didn't actually deploy a completed system in December 2003, there was a lot of surprise at those levels."
Mueller voiced his bitter disappointment over the December version of VCF in the hearings. "When SAIC delivered the first product in December 2003, we immediately identified a number of deficiencies, 17 at the outset. That soon cascaded to 50 or more and ultimately to 400 problems with that software."
Hughes still bristles at having that prototype tested as a final version, but he does admit to some culpability. "That tells you one thing we should have done better: talking at every level in the government to make sure everybody was on the same page."
In January 2004, the FBI hired a new acting CIO, Zalmai Azmi, its fifth in four years. Azmi officially took the CIO job in May 2004. An intense back-and-forth between Azmi and SAIC ensued during the first half of that year, with SAIC determined to nail down an unchanging set of requirements and Azmi pushing for delivery based on a contract that was performance-based, rather than cost-plus-award.
Both parties got their wish in June 2004, when Azmi and SAIC worked out a two-track plan. In December 2004, SAIC would deliver an IOC (initial operating capability), a workflow application that would automate the case-management document approval process. According to the OIG report, the FOC (full operating capability) was simply a new effort to "identify new requirements for developing a functional case management system to replace the ACS."
The IOC delivery is still a source of pride for Hughes. "That system contained 100 percent of the requirements that the customer said they wanted in the IOC system," he says.