FBI's Sentinel is 'finished,' but not complete
The FBI turned on the Sentinel case management system for all users on July 1, but in doing so left behind a fair number of requirements originally planned for and at a cost larger than it's letting on, says the Justice Department office of inspector general.
In an interim report (.pdf) dated Sept. 7, the Justice OIG notes that the FBI says it finished its troubled case management effort at a cost of $441 million--less, even, than the $451 million appropriated for its completion.
But the FBI's figure leaves out $60 million worth of operations and maintenance--an amount the FBI promised would come out of the $451 million, meaning that a like-for-like comparison would lead to a final figure of at least $501 million.
The FBI also used operations and maintenance money to install $6.2 million worth of hardware updates in March, auditors say, also without adding that amount to the official final dollar amount.
In addition, the final tally excludes direct employment costs, but the FBI says it would have paid the salaries of the civil servants at work on Sentinel regardless of the project they were assigned to.
Auditors also say they're concerned that in eliminating all requirements for functionality in crisis case management on the argument that another system known as the ORION (stands for Operational Response and Investigative Online Network) can already do that, the FBI has effectively postponed, and so hidden from the final figure, the cost of a needed future upgrade to Sentinel.
The FBI awarded in May a $19 million contract for the operation and maintenance of ORION over 8 years, auditors say, but the FBI chief technology officer also told auditors that "future versions of Sentinel may replace ORION."
Other requirements not included in Sentinel are functionality for the intake, tracking, searching and analysis of terrorist threat incident or suspicious activity reports. The FBI developed a system dubbed Guardian as an interim solution until Sentinel was meant to come online, but will keep Guardian functionality as a standalone system. As a result, the FBI now must maintain and operate two systems to track and record investigative activity and information, auditors note that the intention of Sentinel was to create one such system.
The Automatic Case System, the antiquated case file system Sentinel was intended to replace will also have an apparently long life even in the era of Sentinel, since the FBI decided not to migrate case data from ACS to Sentinel (auditors note this mostly in passing since this in fact is an old decision taken in 2010). In addition to clearing the difficult hurdle of that data migration however, ACS couldn't be turned off until the FBI also replaced the National Name Check Program system to work with Sentinel. The name check program is the program that queries FBI records after receiving a request form a federal, state or local agency. Updating it to interface with Sentinel would cost more than $10 million, according to a December 2006 FBI estimate that auditors quote.
- download the report, "Interim Report On The Federal Bureau Of Investigation's Implementation Of The Sentinel Project" (.pdf)
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