FBI's Sentinel program on right path, GAO says

The FBI's management of the Sentinel program has resolved many of the problematic issues that failed its Virtual Case File (VCF) system, but contract management and effective cost and schedule still fall short, government auditors said.

In the second report on the case management system, the Government Accountability Office found that the FBI is heading down a successful path, but needs to address some outstanding problems.

'The FBI is managing various aspects of Sentinel according to a number of effective system acquisition best practices,' auditors wrote.

However, GAO also found the FBI's cost and schedule estimates are unreliable and it is not overseeing its support contractors adequately.

'The FBI's policies and procedures that form the basis for Sentinel's schedule and cost estimates are not fully consistent with reliable estimating practices,' the report states. 'The bureau is not effectively performing a key tracking and oversight practice for its many support contractors that are performing program management functions.'

Auditors said the concern is that the FBI has not defined performance metrics for its support contractors.

The FBI awarded Lockheed Martin a six-year, $305 million contract in March 2006 to build Sentinel to provide case management services, automated workflow and records management functions. Sentinel's effort replaced the VCF program, a $170 million fiasco that the bureau ended in March 2005.

Although the FBI disagreed with GAO's assessment on how it is overseeing its support contractors, agency Chief Information Officer Zal Azmi said in his written response to the audit that the bureau will update its information technology handbook to include cost and schedule estimating best practices.

Azmi said that effort would be done in late fiscal 2007.

'The FBI does not concur with GAO's comments that the FBI should establish and implement performance standards in statements of work for Sentinel support contractors relative to the quality and timeliness of products and the performance of services,' Azmi told the GAO. 'The Sentinel program management office support contractors have defined position descriptions and skills required to perform the functions defined in the staffing plan.'

Azmi added that all products provided by support contractors, including white papers and meeting minutes, are approved by government supervisors.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former Judiciary Committee chairman, said the report shows the FBI has not done enough to reform its issues. He said the main reason behind VCF's failure was the FBI's poor monitoring of the performance schedule of its prime contractor.

'I don't understand why the FBI can't follow its own handbook when keeping track of cost and performance on Sentinel,' he said in a news release.

To its credit, the FBI has made several important changes, GAO said.

The bureau has:

  • Established effective processes to mitigate risks before they have a chance to affect Sentinel's cost, schedule or performance.
  • Begun planning for the workforce and business process changes that Sentinel will require.
  • Implementing controls and tools for systematically identifying Sentinel's component parts, such as software and hardware, and controlling configuration of parts that ensures the integrity of each.
  • Defining expectations for the prime contractor and measuring performance against those expectations.
The FBI 'has implemented a number of best practices for Sentinel and by doing so has placed itself on a path to both avoid the kind of missteps that led to the failure of VCF and increase the chances of putting needed mission capabilities in the hands of bureau agents and analysts as soon as possible,' the report states.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group