FBI pushes back completion date for Sentinel file system

Bureau now plans to have $451 million Sentinel project operational by fall 2010

The FBI has pushed back the projected completion date for its $451 million Sentinel electronic information and case management system, according to an audit of the project released today by the Justice Department's inspector general.

The audit revealed that a three-month delay for finishing the second of Sentinel's four contract phases had pushed back the date for finishing the project's development to September 2010 — three months later than previously reported by the IG.

The original plan, which also was adjusted, projected completion of Sentinel's four development phases by December 2009. 

The IG expressed concern in the past about the aggressive schedule for the Sentinel project, but added that the revised schedule is more realistic and makes it more likely Sentinel will meet users’ needs when completed.

Sentinel is being developed by Lockheed Martin and is based on commercial off-the-shelf components. The program is meant to provide the bureau with a Web-enabled electronic case management system. Once completed, the system is supposed to deal with the management of records, workflow and evidence, as well as providing capabilities for searching, reporting and sharing information.

Despite the three-month extended deployment schedule and increased costs incurred for the second phase, the FBI still estimates the project will cost $451 million to complete. The FBI said it had used $18 million from risk-reserve funds built into the project to fund unanticipated re-engineering efforts to cover excess costs incurred from phase two, and added that those expenditures weren’t a cost overrun.

However, the IG's office said the cost and schedule growth of the second phase “heightens the risk and probability for increases to the overall cost of the Sentinel Program and its schedule for completion.”

Meanwhile, in a response to the IG report, the FBI said it was pleased the audit found the new schedule to be more reasonable and that the new approach for the second phase of the project reduces overall program risk.

“The FBI is pleased the [IG] report concluded the revised Sentinel schedule is more realistic. By extending the completion of Phase 2 by three months, requirements from the latter phases will be delivered earlier, providing capabilities to users sooner than originally planned,” the bureau said in a statement.

The Sentinel program began in 2005, and the FBI hired Lockheed Martin in March 2006. The bureau’s 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 Government Accountability Office. However, last year the GAO praised the FBI’s management of the Sentinel procurement.

In the audit report the IG detailed six recommendations it made to the bureau for improving the project. The IG said the bureau concurred with its recommendations to:

  • Update staff planning for the project to ensure all the needs of Sentinel’s program management office are covered by the plan.
  • Expeditiously fill the vacant positions within the updated Sentinel program management office staffing plan.
  • Include more user involvement in the rest of Sentinel’s development.
  • Develop a detailed data migration plan for information from FBI case files.
  • Ensure Lockheed measures and reports Sentinel system performance in accordance with the project’s measurement plan.
  • Create a goal for Sentinel response time that includes the network on which Sentinel’s data travels.

The FBI said it had already started resolving six recommendations and had filled all vacancies in the Sentinel Program Management Office. The bureau also said it has successfully closed 30 of the 31 recommendations from the four prior reports the IG has done on Sentinel.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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