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FBI's Sentinel project $100 million over budget, 2 years behind schedule

Oct. 20, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments
Above, FBI agents at work. The FBI's project to develop a new case management system is $100 million over budget and nearly two years behind schedule, according to a report released Oct. 20.
Above, FBI agents at work. The FBI's project to develop a new case management system is $100 million over budget and nearly two years behind schedule, according to a report released Oct. 20. (File photo / Getty Images)

The FBI's project to develop a new case management system is $100 million over budget and nearly two years behind schedule, a report says.

The FBI spent $405 million as of August and completed only two of four phases of the Sentinel project, intended to be the FBI's official records repository, according to a report released Wednesday by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine. The project's first two phases were supposed to cost $306 million.

The entire project was supposed to be completed by December 2009. Now the project is slated to be completed in September 2011 at a total cost of $451 million. That project cost estimate increased from $425 million in October 2007 after the first phase was completed.

Failure to complete the project's third and fourth phases has hindered the ability of FBI agents and analysts to fully search the agency's case files, the report found.

By July, Sentinel should have been able to generate and securely process 18 paperless case-related forms. Instead, the system was only able to generate and process four of the forms, which were not fully automated, the report found.

Further concerns remain about the FBI's plans to manage Sentinel's development directly, after announcing last month that Lockheed Martin's role as the prime contractor would be reduced, according to the report.

Sentinel is intended to replace the FBI's outdated Automated Case Management System. When fully implemented, it will provide FBI agents and analysts with a web-based case management system to manage evidence, automate document review and approval processes, and use expanded search capabilities.

The FBI disputes the report's findings. "We believe that the interim report does not accurately reflect the FBI's management of the Sentinel project, and fails to credit the FBI with taking corrective action to keep it on budget," according to a FBI news release. The agency noted that thousands of its employees are using the system to draft interview reports, send leads and manage their caseloads.

Using a new "agile methodology," the FBI says it can complete the remaining work on the project by September 2011 at a cost of $20 million, keeping it within the re-baselined budget of $451 million.

But Mitre, a research and development center hired by the FBI to provide an independent assessment of the project, estimates it will cost $351 million to complete the project.

The FBI says Mitre estimate's assumes a "worst case scenario for a plan that we are no longer using."

Fine's report said the FBI is inexperienced in managing projects using its current approach. Plus, the bureau has reduced the number of employees working on the project from about 250 to 50, which "may not be sufficient to complete the system."

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