FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said Friday the agency has completed a key component of its modernization program, the costly, oft-criticized Trilogy network. The $458 million project, which has been plagued by cost overruns, is expected to allow FBI agents to receive multi-media case files at their desks and to link various law enforcement agency databases.

The Trilogy network replaces the FBIs dated local area and wide area networks and will allow FBI personnel to transmit data at much greater speeds. The network will also enable new applications, such as the Virtual Case File, scheduled to come on-line later this year, and "lays the foundation" for better information sharing with partner agencies.

Mueller said the overall direction of the Trilogy program is to provide all FBI offices with improved network communications, a common and current set of office automation tools, and "easy-to-use, re-engineered, Web-based applications."

"The FBI has been a paper-driven organization and 18 months ago our technology left much to be desired. Mueller said. "The recent upgrade of our hardware and speedy deployment of our state-of-the-art network shows that the FBI can change quickly, that we are committed to this change, and that we are positioning ourselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

The new network, which has been deployed to 591 sites, provides increased bandwidth and three layers of security. According to the FBI, the network is highly expandable, so additional capacity or even additional sites could be added as needed.

With the new system, the FBI hopes to detect patterns in the large volume of information it collects. The FBI says more than half of the information the agency currently collects is not scanned.

In early March, Mueller told a Senate Judiciary Committee the Trilogy program was initiated because, "Over the years, we have failed to develop a sufficient capacity to collect, store, search, retrieve, analyze and share information."

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., the FBI admitted information about the movements of some of the terrorists were known to the FBI, but the information was not shared quickly enough between the various departments of the FBI for analysis and dissemination.

Trilogy's cost overruns and the management of the program, however, have come under attack from Congress. After the FBI reported it had used all of a $100 million supplemental fund for Trilogy, a Senate appropriation report filed in January regarding the cost overruns stated, "This is not a surprise. The attempt to make up for 20 years of neglect in two frenzied years of spending was destined to fail. The FBI chose to squander this reserve. So when the funds are needed, none are available."

Sen. Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has called the program a "disaster," adding "Programs such as Trilogy do not need more money. What they need is more management."

Trilogy is being designed by Dyncorp of Reston, Va., and San Diego-based Science Applications International.