- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The FBI says a new computer system — introduced last year as a replacement for a failed case-file program — is within cost and on schedule to be fully operational by 2009, despite criticisms in a report this week by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General.

In a report released this week, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that the new program, known as Sentinel, faced a $56.7 million funding gap and that although it could still prove to be successful with careful oversight, the Bush administration’s funding request for this year’s share of the $425 million system is short of what is needed.

“The FBI appreciates the Inspector General’s continued interest and assessment of the Sentinel program,” the bureau said. “The OIG performed the audit at the request of the FBI Director and Congress. This audit was the second in a series of audits to evaluate the progress and implementation of Sentinel.

“According to the audit the FBI has made ‘good progress’ in addressing the concerns surrounding staffing, information sharing, earned value management, cost tracking and controls, and documentation that were identified in the first audit report,” it said.

The FBI said Phase II of the Sentinel program is expected to cost about $157 million. As part of President Bush’s fiscal 2007 budget request, $100 million in funding was requested and the balance of $57 million “has long been identified from existing FBI balances and will not impact operational programs.”

“The total project cost for Sentinel was budgeted at a cost of $425 million and that figure remains the same. Characterizations to the contrary are misleading,” the FBI said. “At this time, Sentinel is within cost and schedule.”

The Sentinel program was introduced last year as a replacement for the failed Virtual Case File system and is scheduled to be fully operational by 2009, as part of an FBI effort to close internal communication gaps and improve information sharing with other law-enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The system will be built by Lockheed Martin Corp. on a $305 million contract. The FBI also expects to spend about $120 million evaluating the system.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has said the Sentinel program will “strengthen the FBI’s capabilities by replacing its primarily paper-based reporting system with an electronic system designed for information sharing.”

“Sentinel will support our current priorities, including our No. 1 priority: preventing terrorist attacks,” he said.

The Sentinel program will deliver an electronic information-management system, automate work-flow processes for the first time and provide a user-friendly Web-based interface to access and search across multiple databases. It is designed to help the FBI manage information beyond the case-focus of the existing Automated Case Support (ACS) and will provide enhanced information-sharing and search-and-analysis capabilities.

Sentinel also is expected to facilitate information sharing with members of the law-enforcement and intelligence communities. Mr. Mueller is scheduled to testify today during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI oversight.

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