Try to restart it and see if that works

Published February 3, 2005 9:40PM (EST)

In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, George Bush laid down what sounded like a bedrock principle of his administration: "Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all." As the folks over at the Center for American Progress have predicted, Bush will live to regret uttering that sentence: Every time his administration spends money on some ill-advised boondoggle, those ten words will surely be quoted back at him.

Let's get started here.

In his State of the Union address two years ago, Bush praised the FBI for "improving its ability to analyze intelligence" and for "transforming itself to meet new threats." But there's news out on those efforts today -- a report from the Justice Department's inspector general. Its conclusion: The FBI has done such a poor job of planning and managing a computer system needed to "connect the dots" in terrorism cases that the entire $170 million project may need to be scrapped.

In testimony prepared for Congress today, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that the system, called Virtual Case File, "still is not operational after more than three years of development and the allocation of $170 million." Fine said that the system will "require substantial additional work or need to be scrapped and replaced by a new system," and that the FBI has provided neither a "realistic timetable" nor a cost estimate for "implementing a workable VCF or a successor system."

FBI Director Robert Mueller says he's "confident that the bureau is moving in the right direction" on the project. And we're sure he's right. After all, taxpayer dollars will be spent wisely or not at all. Right?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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