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10/21/2010
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FBI Disputes Audit On Troubled Sentinel Project

The Federal Bureau of Investigation slams an inspector general's report on its long-delayed and over-budget case management system overhaul as inaccurate and based on outdated information.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
"At this stage of the Sentinel project, FBI users have received far less functionality than was planned," the auditor's report says. "Sentinel largely remains a more user-friendly way to search [the old case management system] rather than the state of the art, stand-alone case management system that it was envisioned to provide by now."

The report also expresses concern about the FBI's management controls over Sentinel. For example, the report notes that the FBI limited or eliminated several project management activities designed to monitor Sentinel's progress, including: eliminating monthly project health assessments designed to provide an independent assessment of cost, schedule, and scope; and discontinuing earned value management reporting measuring cost estimates, evaluating progress, and analyzing cost and performance trends.

Largely to remedy these problems and concerns, the FBI is taking a new, agile development approach to completing Sentinel, drastically reducing its reliance on its prime contractor on the project, Lockheed Martin, along the way. It now says it can complete the project on budget and within reasonable time constraints.

However, the report notes, while the FBI CTO said the new methodology could enable the FBI to complete Sentinel within its $451 million budget, that estimate didn't include the first two years of maintenance of the system after completion, as had all previous budget estimates, and also didn't account for spending on the new government manpower that would be required of the project. In addition, the FBI didn't provide the inspector general with any new schedule estimates for completing the work.

The new approach will entail cutting Sentinel's devoted workforce by 67%, going from 220 to 40 contract workers, and from 30 to 12 government workers. It also means the FBI won't migrate data from the old case management system into Sentinel as had been assumed since the start of the project, but instead will rely on new search technology to pull the two systems closer together. The inspector general raised concerns that the decrease in manpower might make it harder to complete the system on time, and the continued existence of the old case management system could result in higher operational costs and increased complexity.

"The report expresses 'significant concern' about the FBI's new plan, yet it offers no alternative and recommends, in part, that we follow this course," Harrington said. "Two of three recommendations direct the FBI to reassess the functionality described in Sentinel's requirements and prioritize the remaining requirements to have the greatest impact on agents and analysts. This is what we have done in moving forward to complete Sentinel using agile development."

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