FBI Computer Overhaul Faces Cost Hurdles

DOJ: Project could cost another $500M.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s long-running computer system overhaul initiative could cost another $500 million before it’s complete, and it faces the risk of ongoing budget overages, The New York Times reports.

This conclusion comes from a Department of Justice inspector general’s report, according to The Times. The report acknowledged the fact that the bureau had taken “important steps” toward learning from the past issues that halted the project, according to The Times, but it also found continuing financial and management concerns.

According to the report, the Sentinel project, the FBI office overseeing the initiative, does not have a full staff, and it’s uncertain whether the bureau has the necessary management system in place to avoid the major budget issues that sunk the project in the past, The Times reports.

According to The Times, the report read, “We view the potential weaknesses in cost control as a project risk.”

The FBI has been trying to install a modern computer system that enables its agents to study data, communicate and follow the latest developments in cases for more than 10 years, The Times reports. Last year, the agency was forced to give up on the computer overhaul after it already invested some $170 million on a faulty Virtual Case File system, according to The Times.

The DOJ inspector general report called the management of that Virtual Case File system “fragmented and ill equipped,” The Times reports, and it said a large-scale personnel switch also affected the project.

According to The Times, the report said, “Simply put, the V.C.F. was poorly managed.”

Completion of the case-management project is considered a key tool in the agency’s war on terrorism, but as of January, the FBI had filled only two-thirds of the jobs planned for the project, according to The Times. Until those empty job slots are filled, “Sentinel is at risk,” The Times reports.

The main contract for Sentinel could be issued this week, and Lockheed Martin is a prime candidate, according to The Times.

Though officials at the FBI did not comment on the contract or the expected expenses of the project, the DOJ report estimated the system to cost between $400 million and $500 million over three or four years, The Times reports.

For related CIO content, check out Why the G-Men Aren’t I.T. Men.

Related:

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

Learn how leading CIOs are reinventing IT. Download CIO's new Think Tank report today!