Report questions FBI estimates on completion, cost of Sentinel IT project
The Justice Department's inspector general is questioning whether the FBI will be able to stay within budget and on schedule in completing its troubled electronic case management system once it moves the project in-house.
The FBI recently took control of the program, known as Sentinel, from Bethesda-based contractor Lockheed Martin. Sentinel is a computerized system meant to replace the bureau's paper-based system for maintaining criminal investigation records.
In a new report, the inspector general detailed for the first time the agency's plan for overseeing the effort, which will reduce contract employees working on the effort from 220 to 40 and decrease the number of FBI employees assigned to it from 30 to 12.
The agency told the IG it has $45 million remaining in Sentinel's budget and will dedicate $25 million to operating and maintaining the system and $20 million to completing it within a year.
But the inspector general expressed concerns that the one-year, $20 million completion plan seems optimistic -- particularly "given that $20 million is approximately 90 percent less than what Lockheed Martin estimated was needed to complete the Sentinel project."
Additionally, the report said the new Sentinel likely won't be as functional as the planned version and that the FBI hasn't developed a detailed enough strategy for developing the remaining portions.
The FBI fired back at the inspector general last week, arguing that the report relies on outdated cost estimates and fails to "comply with generally accepted government accounting standards."
The critical report comes as the federal government continues to grapple with its information technology IT programs, many of which are delayed or over budget, raising concerns among the D.C. area's IT community.
A group representing industry and academia plans to release on Monday (Oct. 25) a set of recommendations on how the government might better oversee these efforts.
The Government Opportunity in the 21st Century Commission is set to recommend that the government develop programs in smaller pieces and more closely collaborate with industry in creating and managing IT programs.
The panel -- established by the TechAmerica Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan affiliate of industry group TechAmerica -- will also recommend that the government assign a full-time, knowledgeable program manager to each system.
Steve Kelman of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, one of the panel's co-chairs, said the government needs to have the technical skills to oversee programs.
"At a big-picture level, the last thing we need is to bring major IT systems development in-house," he said. But "the government needs access to really good technical talent."