IG: FBI's Sentinel program is on track

OIG Sentinel Report

It’s early yet, but the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General believes the FBI’s $425 million Sentinel project, a replacement for the aborted Virtual Case File (VCF) case management system, is on a successful track.

That will be a welcome opinion for FBI executives, who suffered a drubbing over the failure of the $170 million VCF effort to replace the bureau’s ancient Automated Case Support system.

In a 2005 report, the OIG said VCF failed because of poorly defined design requirements, a lack of mature information technology investment management processes and poor management continuity and oversight.

In its first report on Sentinel earlier this year, the OIG, in looking at the preacquisition planning and control, also voiced concern over some of the details. It specifically recommended greater attention to cost tracking and control, progress measurements, software validation, data sharing and the hiring of more program management employees.

The FBI has made good progress in addressing those issues, the OIG said in its most recent report. However, it remains wary of the funding of the project, saying there is uncertainty over where the FBI will get the $150 million it says it needs in fiscal 2007 to continue Sentinel.

The president’s fiscal 2007 budget calls for $100 million to go to the four-phase Sentinel project, with about $50 million remaining from prior years’ funding.

“The FBI’s [chief information officer] recently told us that an FY 2007 appropriation of less than $100 million would be cause for concern and could result in an unanticipated level of reprogramming of FBI resources to fund the Sentinel project,” the OIG said.

Those issues, in addition to monitoring and adjusting project costs, developing contingency plans for high-risk areas and completing the staffing of the program management office, will require close attention in the future, the OIG said.

By establishing stronger investment management processes and an array of monitoring and control mechanisms, however, the OIG concluded that the FBI is much better positioned to successfully manage the Sentinel project, due for completion in 2009, than it was with earlier programs.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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