- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sentinel, the FBI’s multimillion-dollar program to computerize investigative information and replace the bureau’s paper-based system for record keeping, is two years behind schedule and $100 million over budget, a report said Wednesday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said that after spending $405 million of the $451 million budgeted for the program, only two of Sentinel’s four phases have been completed and the “most challenging development work” for the project still remains.

In a 28-page report, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said while Sentinel had resulted in some improvements to the FBIs case-management system, “it has not delivered much of what it originally intended.” He said Sentinel was supposed to generate and securely process 18 paperless case-related forms through the review and approval process by July 2010, but has the capability to generate and process just four.

“As a result, FBI agents and analysts must still print the forms to obtain approval signatures, and they must maintain hard-copy files with the required approval signatures,” he said.

Additionally, the report said that because the FBI has not finished the third and fourth phases of Sentinel, agents and analysts do not have the expanded capabilities to search case files and cannot use Sentinel to manage evidence as originally intended.

FBI Associate Deputy Director Thomas J. Harrington disputed the inspector general’s findings, saying in a statement that while the report expressed “significant concern” about a new plan by the FBI to complete the project, it offered no alternatives. He also said two of the report’s three recommendations — to reassess Sentinel’s functionality and rank the priority of the remaining requirements — have already been undertaken.

“We are concerned that this interim report does not comply with generally accepted government accounting standards, which the report acknowledges,” he said. “In the future, the FBI requests that the OIG use these auditing standards in its review of the Sentinel project and not rely on ‘interim’ reports that do not accurately reflect the status of the project.”

Sentinel was introduced in 2005 as a replacement for the failed $170 million “Virtual Case File” system and was supposed to be fully operational by 2009. It was part of an FBI effort to close internal communication gaps and improve information sharing with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The inspector general’s report said Sentinel has not replaced the bureau’s obsolete Automated Case Support (ACS) software system and has not yet become the FBIs official records repository. Sentinel is intended to, among other things, provide FBI agents and analysts with a Web-based electronic case management system to manage evidence, automate document reviews and approvals, and expand search capabilities.

Lockheed Martin is the projects prime contractor, although the FBI issued a stop-work order in July. The bureau later announced it intended to assume direct management of the system’s development and greatly reduce Lockheed Martins role.

The FBI has said it can complete the remainder of Sentinels development by September 2011 at a cost of $20 million, but Mr. Fine said the estimate is 90 percent less than the $351 million needed to complete Sentinel as estimated by MITRE Corp. — a federally funded research and development center the FBI commissioned to assess the project.

“We have significant concerns and questions about the ability of this new approach to complete the Sentinel project within budget, in a timely fashion and with similar functionality as what the Sentinel project previously sought to provide,” Mr. Fine said.

Mr. Harrington said the inspector general’s report “does not accurately reflect the FBIs management of the Sentinel project” and failed to credit the FBI for taking corrective action to keep it on budget. He said the report relied on “outdated cost estimates that do not apply to the current FBI plan.”

He also said management initiatives by the FBI led to the identification of Sentinel deficiencies in late 2009, with corrective actions taken in the spring of 2010. He said “thousands of FBI employees” are using Sentinel every day for interview reports, sending leads and managing their caseloads.

“Unfortunately, the interim report does not fairly credit these management initiatives and achievements,” he said.

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