I am concerned that this weekend’s wire story, “FBI Computer System: Late and Over Budget,” is simplistic and misleading. The story reports on an audit of the FBI’s Sentinel case management system that was completed by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in December 2007, nearly a year ago. This report is part of a series of audits requested by the FBI and our oversight bodies. As the OIG reports, the total estimated costs and the expected completion of the Sentinel project have increased by approximately six percent and six months, respectively, for the six-year program (which includes two years of operations and maintenance). Of note: This comes after a lengthy evaluation of the overall project after the completion of Phase 1 last year. During Phase 1, through constant assessment of performance, the FBI and the primary contractor, Lockheed Martin, were able to redesign Phase 2 to be more efficient and deliver more tools faster to our employees.
Other important recommendations that were implemented came from the Inspector General’s audits. For instance, the OIG recommended that further dividing the remaining phases, 2-4, into smaller segments would provide mission-enhancing services to the user more frequently. This more flexible and agile approach was thoughtfully planned, and further reduces the risk by shifting more of the requirements forward into the program’s development.
Since completion of the audit last year, Sentinel Phase 2 is now more than halfway complete, and is on schedule and within cost. It will also deliver administrative case management services well ahead of the original schedule, services not originally planned until the fourth and final phase. As the audit noted, the first segment of Phase 2 has delivered the initial version of the enterprise portal and reduced the number of information technology systems Sentinel will interface with or replace.
It is important to note, especially in the context of a story that implies inefficiency or ineffectiveness, that the strategic plan that resulted in these advances has been embraced by stakeholders at the Department of Justice, Capitol Hill, the Director of National Intelligence, the General Accountability Office, as well as by the OIG, with whom we will continue to work closely throughout the entire process.
Among the original goals of the Sentinel program were agility and the ability to make adjustments during the multi-phase, four-year period—both to account for expected advances in technology and to implement lessons learned along the way. By any measure, the “replan” following the successful completion of Phase 1, which this audit addresses, has made Sentinel stronger and more responsive to the needs of users—those FBI employees who rely on cutting-edge technology to help keep America safe.
Assistant Director, Office of Public Affairs
Federal Bureau of Investigation