The IOC system is currently being field-tested, but the FBI's take on it was somewhat different. At the hearings, Mueller and Azmi repeatedly alluded to a still-classified report by the nonprofit Aerospace Corporation that tallied up a long list of deficiencies in the IOC. Azmi also stated that the IOC represents only one-tenth of the VCF's intended capability, a claim that SAIC Executive Vice President Arnold Punaro rejected in interviews with reporters after the hearing, arguing that VCF never had a baseline to begin with.
Groundhog Day Redux
As SAIC labored on the IOC, still other plans were afoot. In September 2004, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security began planning an interagency FICMS (Federal Investigative Case Management System) that would make the still-unfinished VCF obsolete.
The FICMS proposal sends FBI case management back to the drawing board at a time when, according to Hughes, SAIC's version of the VCF is further along than it may appear. "There are other capabilities that we have already designed and coded, and in fact the code is actually embedded in the IOC system -- but we turned it off and didn't test it or integrate it, because they didn't want it as part of the IOC."
Hughes estimates it will take three years for FICMS to become a working system. Meanwhile, he says, tests have already proven that SAIC's system, if deployed in stages, can scale to do what the FBI needs it to do. "I think it's crazy not to deploy it, regardless of how they want to go in the future," he says.
Today, however, everything remains uncertain. The pilot program for the IOC ends this month. The FBI says it will award a contract for the development of FICMS next month. If it does, then the FBI will likely abandon VCF.
After the fact, members of the Appropriations Committee have raised many objections to the way the VCF project proceeded: off-the-shelf software should have been considered, management should have been more forthright about problems, SAIC should have had its feet held to the fire.
The reality, though, is that IT backwaters like the FBI can't modernize without an extensible enterprise architecture, which the FBI admits it's only beginning to develop. Meanwhile, Gartner's Pescatore says only 76 percent of FBI personnel are using secure e-mail. Such outrages mean that, before any grand architecture rolls out, point solutions such as VCF must have their day.