The Justice Department Office of Inspector General cast doubt Wednesday on FBI plans to finish its new case management system within a year and on budget.
Efforts under the Sentinel program to convert FBI’s criminal investigative records from paper to a computerized process have been fraught with delays and setbacks. The FBI initially planned to complete the project by December 2009 with a $451 million budget. Sentinel is now only about half done and has cost about $405 million so far, according to an Inspector General’s report released Wednesday.
The FBI has said it intends to stay within its $451 million budget for the project and finish Sentinel by September 2011. The Office of Inspector General was less optimistic.
The second part of the four-phase project “has not gone smoothly,” the report said. Changes made to the project and concerns about Lockheed Martin’s work on Sentinel has led to the continued use of the old FBI case management system.
“We believe that these issues and these concerns affect whether Sentinel will ultimately provide, in a timely manner and within a reasonable budget, the automated case management system that FBI employees need to most effectively perform their vital mission,” the Inspector General report said.
Members of Congress have also expressed concern about Sentinel. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement that the Inspector General report is “disheartening.”
“Information exchange is critical to protecting our national security,” Leahy said. “These stumbles continue to be alarming.”
Chad L. Fulgham, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI Information and Technology Branch, wrote in a letter to Inspector General Glenn Fine that the FBI is working to address the concerns raised.
But FBI Associate Deputy Director Thomas J. Harrington said in a statement that there are problems with the report.
“We believe that the interim report does not accurately reflect the FBI’s management of the Sentinel project, and fails to credit the FBI with taking corrective action to keep it on budget,” Harrington said. “Moreover, the interim report comes at a time when the FBI has changed its plan for completing the project, and the Department of Justice has authorized us to go forward with our new approach. The report, however, continues to rely on outdated cost estimates that do not apply to the current FBI plan.”
This story has been updated.