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Hearing of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - Federal Bureau of Investigation of Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request

Interview

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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REP. RODNEY FRELINGHUYSEN (R-NJ): Thank you, Chairman.

And Director Mueller, I join the chairman in welcome you here this morning to testify on your 2009 budget.

I'm pleased we're holding this hearing today, particularly since we didn't have the opportunity to hear your testimony on last year's budget request. For 2009, you're seeking an appropriation of $7.1 billion, an increase of $450 million or 6.8 percent. We look forward to your testimony on the new increases you are seeking, as well as on the FBI's continuing transformation activities to fulfill its role as our key domestic counterterrorism and intelligence agency.

In addition, the committee will act soon on the administration's pending supplemental request. In this subcommittee's jurisdiction, the FBI has, by far, the largest supplemental request at $100 million. However, that request was formulated almost a year and a half ago, so perhaps there's some updates you can give us this morning and provide us concerning those requirements.

Lastly, I'd like to pass on -- you to pass on to your people the deep appreciation all of us have for their hard work. The responsibility of your agents, your analysts and support staff to protect the nation from terrorism and crime is perhaps the most important activity we support in this overall federal budget. We recognize the tireless effort that is required to carry out those missions, both at home and today, very much abroad as well. But the work is often dangerous, sometimes underappreciated and misunderstood, but essential to keeping us safe.

While I've not been here 39 years, I've been here 14 years. I think you know my father served as a member of Congress for 22 years, and so my perspective of the FBI is -- I haven't lost faith in you, certainly. I have great faith in the work of the FBI, its proud history.

There perhaps have been a few missteps along the way, but I think you've done your level best.

I know of you. You enjoy a good reputation as a very honorable and outstanding person. I think you've done your level best to make those corrections. So I admire you for that. And with the chairman, I welcome you this morning for your testimony.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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REP. RODNEY P. FRELINGHUYSEN (R-NJ): (Off mike) -- yield to me for questions, Mr. Chairman?

REP. MOLLOHAN: Yes.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Thank you very much.

You've implemented -- this is an understatement -- a pretty dramatic transformation since September 11, 2001. Obviously, the emphasis is on our counterterrorism mission. What are your top priority areas that you're focusing on?

MR. MUELLER: Well, this particular budget, the 2009 budget, we have -- we've requested a number of positions for special agents, analysts and professional support for our national security mission. We've requested 145 positions for surveillance. We find as our cases grow, the necessity of having a professional surveillance cadre has come to the fore, and we have not requested in the past surveillance positions. And our third area is financing and monies to enhance our workforce training in the handling of human sources, specialized training, and initiatives relating to both national security as well as the criminal side of the house.

So our three main areas in this budget are additional positions for the national security, which will relieve some of the tension we have in, I would say, cannibalizing the criminal side of the house to pay for the national security; secondly, in surveillance; and third, monies for training, particularly when it comes to specialized training in the national security field.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: The training falls under what you'd call the human capital management area.

MR. MUELLER: It does.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: In your -- in reading over your testimony and in this section on surveillance, it just struck me there's a term here -- let me just quote here -- "shifting from a reactive criminal prosecution approach to a prevention- and intelligence-driven focus in our counterterrorism program is taxing the FBI's capacity to gather intelligence through both physical and electronic surveillance." I mean, that sort of says to me, as a layperson, that as this transformation is occurring, maybe something has to give here between what you've been traditionally sort of doing and things that you've actually focused and concentrated your efforts on since September 11th.

MR. MUELLER: I -- in the past, I think we have been amongst the best in the world at collecting information for a prosecution to go into a courtroom. And we have tended in the past to look at pieces of information and determine whether or not those pieces of information are admissible in a courtroom.

In the wake of September 11th, we understand our obligation is not just to investigate a case or a terrorist act after it's happened but prevent that terrorist attack, which requires us to identify individuals who are taking steps to undertake a terrorist before that attack occurs. And to do that, we need intelligence. We need analysts. We need the surveillance capabilities to run an intelligence operation to not only capture the conversations through technology, whether it be e-mail or the phones, but also to back it up with surveillance.

These -- as we develop this capacity, which I would say it augments what we've done in the past, we need --

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: This is also the issue of sort of making a -- you know, a -- you know, making your case solid.

MR. MUELLER: Well, yeah, it is, but the recognition has to be that we have tremendous capabilities in the bureau. We have to augment those capabilities with the gathering of intelligence, the exchange of intelligence with our counterparts in the CIA, DIA, NSA and the like, and build our capabilities to be a domestic intelligence agency at the same time we're a domestic law enforcement agency, understanding that as we grow those capabilities, we have to do it within the framework of the Constitution, applicable statutes and the attorney general guidelines.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: You also say in that paragraph -- and I don't mean to take words out of context -- we need a vigorous surveillance capacity to keep on top of known and emerging targets. I assume we should have every confidence that we are well-placed in that regard.

MR. MUELLER: We are well-placed in that regard, but quite often you will find we will have -- if you take a case such as Lackawanna, New York; Torrance, California, where we have a group of individuals and we have substantial predication that they are working together to undertake a terrorist attack, we have to pull resources from elsewhere in the country to do the type of investigation and follow-up of the organization that would be necessary to gather the information we need ultimately to disrupt that plot. That means surveillance teams from around the country. It means individuals who, assuming we have either a FISA wire or a Title III wire, the individuals who are capable of putting up and monitoring those wires. And they are very personnel intensive to do that kind of in-depth investigation. And consequently, while we're pushing the resources around the country to do this, we, as our work expands, we need the resources to accomplish this.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: And lastly, my time is limited, your budget request is linked to the new strategy management system?

MR. MUELLER: Yes.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: How will that system enable you to align your budget with these emerging threats and trends?

MR. MUELLER: We have -- over the last two and a half years, we developed a management strategy system that focuses on our priorities. Anyone in the organization who feels that they need additional capabilities has to link that request to one of the priorities that we've agreed upon in our strategic management system. And then we prioritize under the strategic management system those priorities to make sure that we're focused on that which is most instrumental to us being successful in that missions that have been given to us.

And we'll tell, as was pointed out, I believe by the chairman, and I think everyone knows -- in the wake of September 11th, focusing on our particular priorities, there are a number of criminal priorities we cannot focus on. And we have to identify those priorities and align the budget, the personnel, the recruit, the hiring, the training, the career development to those priorities as they're established in our strategic management plan.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: So it's a strategic management system, but humans are still the ones that are running it? I got it.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me thank your people for giving me a tour of your Quantico operation. I must say, I have quite a lot of school districts in New Jersey that where -- you have antiquated facilities and certainly you need some upgrades there, obviously. You've got to balance it between other needs out there, whether you call it squeezing or taxing, you have to do a pretty difficult task to balance all of those interests.

I alluded in my -- mentioned in my initial remarks, a supplemental. Can you talk a little bit about what your needs are there?

Can you put some flesh on the bones?

MR. MUELLER: The -- yeah, if I -- without going too far into detail, our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan relates to our contributions when it comes to interviewing detainees. We have a substantial role in evaluating IEDs and running them through forensics, DNA and the fingerprints, for instance, and providing the results back to the military. We do sensitive site exploitations. When a safe house is taken, we then go in and help with the exploitation of the information in that, using the techniques that we've developed over the years in our law enforcement capacity.

What we are seeking in the supplemental are -- is equipment that enables us to participate as I've described -- body armor, armored vehicles, airlift support, generators, evidence collection materials, other areas of --

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: The dollar amount you're looking for this at juncture --

MR. MUELLER: It's a hundred million dollars.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: A hundred million (dollars).

MR. MUELLER: Yes.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: And so would you anticipate that that be -- you'd be coming in with a larger figure?

MR. MUELLER: Well, this was a figure, as I think you or others pointed out, of some time ago. But what we have on the table at this point is a hundred million (dollars).

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: I want to shift briefly to the Sentinel program. You know, one of your biggest challenges and certainly the committee -- I've been on the committee 15 months, but there's been obviously a lot of challenge and frustrations relative to the automation of your case files and case management systems. Can you give us an update --

MR. MUELLER: Surely. The --

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: -- as to where we stand? Obviously this is an issue -- and the chairman alluded to it -- of oversight issues. Maybe this and some other areas -- could you give us a sort of a synopsis of where we stand on this system?

MR. MUELLER: Yeah. It's a system that was -- is going to take approximately four years to develop. It's called Sentinel. The first phase was successfully deployed in June of last year. And since that deployment of phase one, we've had 12 separate additional builds on phase one.

We're well into phase two. And phase two is on schedule to begin implementation in this spring. And it's within the planned cost.

I really don't think there is much in the way -- many in the way of programs that have as much oversight as this particular program.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Well, the -- I know this -- just for the record --

MR. MUELLER: Yes.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: -- what's the last estimate for the current life cycle cost estimate for Sentinel?

MR. MUELLER: Generally in the range of $350 million. It may run a little bit over that in the sense that we have developed a(n) incremental development strategy, as opposed to a straight phased strategy, which will mean that we want and will get earlier in the cycle enhancements to --

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Yeah, I thought the last estimate was 425 million (dollars).

MR. MUELLER: That may be with O&M.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Yeah.

MR. MUELLER: I think it's a straight -- our contract -- the total value of contract with Lockheed Martin is 335 million (dollars) over six years. And we anticipate -- still anticipate delivering full capacity in 2010.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: What do you see as the additional funding requirements?

MR. MUELLER: I'd have to get back to you on that.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Well --

MR. MUELLER: Again, it would be on the (end ?) --

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Yeah, I understand you've deployed two of the most critical deliverablies -- deliverables in phase one, a web- based portal and work boxes that summarize cases and leads.

Are you satisfied with the quality of the phase one products?

MR. MUELLER: Yes.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: And what have you learned sort of based on staff use --

MR. MUELLER: Staff use is not as high as we would like at this juncture because really, the core of the program is coming in the second -- phases two and three. And the heart of it is to advanced information we have in what's called ACS, make it, first of all, available through the Sentinel program but then migrate that data to other databases.

The problem that we face and many companies face is that the database -- the ACS database is an antiquated database. The persons who knew that database way back around are few and far between. And much of the moneys that -- and upgrading goes to identifying the pathways by which you can migrate the data into the new database. As I say, we're on target, and -- both in terms of time and money, in phase two. By my expectations, there may be -- as we go down the line and we bring in earlier some pieces of the program that it -- there may be a, I would say, a very modest enhancement in terms of cost.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Do the recommendations the IG came out with in August, I think there were nine, but one was limit the scope and duration of future project phases to make them more manageable. How does that -- what are those recommendations?

MR. MUELLER: Well, we decided one of the lessons we learned in phase one is that the -- the phased structure where you go for a period of time building it up and then all of sudden push it out to the field is not as beneficial as incremental development. So we have shifted to an incremental development with various increments during the phases. So as I have said, phase one, we've had -- what was it I said, I think -- 12 additional builds in the incremental development. And so as opposed to doing it in straight phases, we're doing it incrementally. Some call it -- persons call it spiral development or incremental development based on what we learned in phase one, which will make it more efficient and enable us to push out to the field enhancements earlier than we had anticipated when we started the project. One of the problems with a project like this and one of the problems I believe that you have with a government project such as this is you get locked into a project early on with requirements, which you need in order to have a contract that is structured and you can meet the -- meet the gates. On the other hand, technology changes, capabilities change over the period of the contract. And you challenge is to keep the contract within budget, make use of the new technology that comes along in the meantime, but assure that you come to the finish line on time and under budget and utilize whatever mechanisms you can to enhance your abilities to get to your people what you need in terms of technology as you go through that project cycle.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: It would be an understatement to say the committee isn't following this with interest and all sorts of language in the omnibus to sort of provide greater, you know, direction and reports? And we wish you good luck, keep us posted.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

MR. MUELLER: If I might add, we have -- as I say, it is -- there is not a lack of oversight on this project. We have GAO, we have the IG, we have OMB, we have a number of congressional committees and we're --

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Well, we want the system to work when it gets --

MR. MUELLER: And I'm -- anytime you need or a would like a briefing, we're happy to give them. We try to give them periodically every couple of weeks, and we'll offer them to the staff whenever they need more insight into how the project is going.

REP. FRELINGHUYSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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