FBI director Robert S. Mueller III is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, where he's expected to be asked about a report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that the FBI's computer system is faced with a new $57 million shortfall.
"These additional costs could have an adverse impact on the FBI's counterterrorism and other programs," said Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in a statement. The FBI responded quickly to the inspector general's Monday report, saying that the $57 million "has long been identified from existing FBI balances and will not impact operational programs."
Senator Leahy, who's the incoming chairman of the committee, complained that the latest FBI program called Sentinel will cost $425 million to complete and not be fully operational until 2009. The FBI's earlier Trilogy effort to automate case management efforts cost $170 million before much of the earlier contract was abandoned.
"The Bush Administration's mismanagement of this project seems to know no bounds," said Senator Leahy. "The OIG finding of significant funding problems with Sentinel at this early stage calls the FBI's cost estimate for this program into serious question."
Mueller inherited much of the FBI's computer problems, which date back a decade. The bureau has been attempting to replace its ancient paper-oriented case management system with an automated system that FBI employees can use from their desktop computers. In its most recent Sentinel effort, the bureau plans to use existing search-engine technologies and add customized features.
Lockheed Martin has been selected to receive $305 million as the main contractor for the current Sentinel work.
"The total project cost for Sentinel was budgeted at a cost of $425 million, and that figure remains the same," the FBI stated in reply to the OIG audit. "Characterizations to the contrary are misleading. At this time, Sentinel is within cost and schedule."