FBI says troubled Sentinel computer system to be ready in 2011

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, May 10, 2010

Pushing back against criticism from the Justice Department's inspector general, the FBI director says a case management system under development by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin will be ready in 2011.

The FBI has shut down work on parts of the third phase and all of the fourth and final phase of the troubled program, known as Sentinel, after determining the second phase fell short of its requirements, Robert S. Mueller III testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in April.

Now, the FBI will conduct a four-week pilot of the remaining phase-two capabilities this summer and will present a new plan to complete the third and fourth phases.

The Sentinel program is important to the FBI because it would replace the bureau's paper-based system of maintaining criminal investigation records with a computerized one.

Mueller's testimony follows the release of a March DOJ inspector general's report that criticized Sentinel for being far behind its original completion date of December 2009 and sure to cost more than its initial estimate of $425 million.

In the report, the inspector general's office said its concerns have escalated over time.

"After more than [three] years and $334 million expended on the development and maintenance of Sentinel, the cost to Sentinel is rising, the completion of Sentinel has been repeatedly delayed, and the FBI does not have a current schedule or cost estimate for completing the project," the review concluded.

The program was on track through fall 2009, when it became clear the effort had slowed and was going over budget, Mueller told Congress. Outside consultants hired by the FBI to review the program identified coding defects, and the FBI subsequently halted work on some parts of Sentinel, he said.

The FBI still does not have a cost estimate for the program, but Mueller expressed confidence that the second phase will be operational by fall. He said Lockheed is cooperating.

"Senior management, with whom I've been in contact over the duration of this contract, understands that issues related to quality control have to be addressed and rectified and is put[ting] not just the senior-level management on it, but the persons that can accomplish that," Mueller said.

Following the partial stop-work order, Lockheed is "focusing on adjustments to the system to better align it with user priorities and expectations," according to a company statement.

"We expect to have a revised plan for completion soon, which will include cost and schedule adjustments for the remaining phases of the program," Lockheed added.

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