GAO: Sentinel is procurement model for FBI

Despite a lack of sufficient bureauwide policies for commercial information technology acquisitions, officials managing the FBI’s $451 million effort to build a new investigative case management system have used effective procurement methods,  according to a review of the project.

A report by the Government Accountability Office said three years into the six year development of the Sentinel case management system, a void in the FBI’s corporate IT procurement policies has not affected the program because officials have implemented five key methods for acquiring commercial IT solutions. In its third review of the ongoing Sentinel project, released Sept. 23, the GAO recommended that FBI incorporate guidance on those acquisition methods into its policies.

The GAO's auditors said although the FBI has defined how it will manage requirements when purchasing commercial IT system solutions, the bureau should revise its procurement policies to also include guidance for commercial product trade-off analysis, commercial product dependency analysis,
commercial product modification and legacy system integration management.

When completed in 2012, the Sentinel program is projected to provide a single entry point for all investigative case management and intuitive interfaces tailored to user needs. The previous attempt to consolidate the FBI’s investigative software applications under a program named Virtual Case File failed because of limited oversight, ineffective controls over changes to the system and staffing issues, according to GAO.

The Sentinel program began in 2005, and in March 2006 the FBI hired Lockheed Martin to develop and integrate the system, the GAO noted.  

Auditors said the had used leading practices for acquiring commercial IT solutions such as analyzing trade-offs between system requirements and the capabilities of commercial products, ensuring that commercial products interoperate and limiting alterations to commercial products used in the system.  The GAO also said officials have been working to ensure that legacy systems are integrated into the new system.

“If these Sentinel practices are successfully incorporated into FBI-wide policies and guidance, then their chances of being employed on a repeatable basis across all applicable FBI systems investments will be increased,” the report concluded.  

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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