CIA official to run Sentinel

The FBI has picked a CIA official to run the Sentinel information technology modernization program.

Miodrag Lazarevich, deputy director for the special communications program office at the CIA's Office of the chief information officer, will be Sentinel's project manager, said Zalmai Azmi, chief information officer for the FBI.

Sentinel is part of a program to modernize the FBI's information technology infrastructure. The new IT infrastructure will help the bureau close internal communication gaps and improve information sharing with other law enforcement and intelligence organizations.

Lazarevich, scheduled to start next week, has a two-year contract with an optional third year, Azmi said today during a FBI news conference held to answer recent media reports about Sentinel and its failed predecessor, the Virtual Case File system.

News reports this week that Sentinel would cost $793 million are incorrect, Azmi said. "There is no project at the FBI that costs $800 million, or would cost $800 million," Azmi said, who declined to put a figure on Sentinel's actual price tag. The FBI has hired two independent IT vendors to determine the cost, he said.

The $800 million figure came from two April budget meetings to plan the FBI's fiscal 2007 budget, Azmi said. Sentinel was not discussed at those sessions, he said.

And contrary to other media reports, Azmi said, the FBI in February did inform contractor SAIC about 400 issues with Virtual Case File, Azmi said. The FBI and SAIC held joint briefings in March and April to discuss the problems, Azmi said. "SAIC already knew what those 400 issues were," he said.

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

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

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