MI5 IT upgrade costs balloon

The security service's new computer system looks set to cost 50 percent more than originally estimated, arrive three years late and have less functionality than was planned

A new computer system for MI5 will cost at least 50 percent more than originally planned — and will deliver less functionality.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) annual report reveals that MI5 is "part-way" through the project to renew its IT infrastructure.

It said: "We have been told that the project will now deliver less capability than previously planned and it will cost at least 50 percent more than originally estimated but it will be operational earlier than originally projected."

The cost of the project was deleted from the report for security reasons, according to MI5, but the committee said the project has "given rise to a number of problems over the past couple of years" and that the management team within the MI5 has been changed.

The ISC said: "We are concerned that the Security Service [MI5] does not yet have sufficient project managers or expertise to manage all their IT and capital projects at the same time."

In response the government said: "Some measures have already been taken to introduce more specialised project management expertise into the Service and further steps are being taken to address the skills shortage."

The committee also said it was concerned that Scope, a secure Web-based information system to link the 10 main producers and consumers of intelligence, was running three years late.

"Scope is now over three years late but the delay has allowed a significantly more robust programme, with better risk management, to be developed. However, the committee remains concerned that Scope has yet to deliver any usable benefits to the UK intelligence community as a whole," it said.

The programme is expected to be completed by the end of 2007, even though in 2001 the committee was told the project would be complete by 2004.

The government said Scope is an "important and complex programme that needs careful management", and that there have been "substantial" benefits for the intelligence community already.

"In the government’s view, it is important to devote the necessary time to getting it right," it said.

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