FBI plans for 2009 Sentinel

The FBI intends to introduce the replacement for its failed Virtual Case File program during the next three-and-a-half to four years, FBI Director Robert Mueller said today.

The FBI will introduce the new case and information management system, called Sentinel, in four phases, Mueller told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Sentinel is part of the FBI's modernization of its information technology infrastructure. It will help the FBI close communication gaps internally and improve information sharing with other law enforcement and intelligence organizations, Mueller said.

"Our overriding goal is to get the right information to the right people at the right time," he said.

During a May 24 hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, Mueller described Sentinel's deployment as one of his top priorities.

Sentinel's first phase will begin by the end of this year, Mueller said in a statement. Each phase will introduce new capabilities, transfer existing information and retire legacy functions, he said.

Mueller declined to give a price tag for the entire system or its first phase of implementation. He said the cost would be spread over two to four fiscal years and that each phase would be paid for in the fiscal year in which the work starts.

Sentinel will replace many existing FBI systems, including the Automated Case Management System and the Criminal Informant Management System, Mueller said.

To improve information sharing, Sentinel supports Extensible Markup Language standards, Mueller told the subcommittee.

Virtual Case File was part of the bureau's Trilogy effort to modernize the agency's obsolete computer systems. The $170 million application was originally due December 2003, but only one-tenth of the system's planned capability was completed by January 2005. The system was shelved in March without being implemented.

The inspector general of the Justice Department excoriated the failed program last February. The audit blamed the program's meltdown on poor management and oversight, design modifications during the project and bad IT investment practices.

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