New system to replace FBI Virtual Case File

The FBI is poised to launch what it calls the Sentinel project, a procurement that will build, among other things, a case management system to replace the defunct Virtual Case File project, officials said.

Bureau officials have been using the Sentinel moniker for the four-phase service-oriented architecture project since last month. They confirmed the details of the project on the condition that their names not be used. Sentinel is to be designed along the lines of the Federal Investigative Case Management Solution, which will provide a blueprint for federal law enforcement case management systems. Officials said they expect to issue an RFP this summer, or at the latest by Sept. 30.

Using the name Sentinel "helps remove any confusion about what FICMS is and what the actual solution for the FBI will be," said William Price Roe, senior policy advisor for Justice's CIO, Vance Hitch.

Roe added that Sentinel is "the first implementation of an FICMS framework." Because of the service oriented architecture, other agencies will be able to use the core solution.

As for Sentinel itself, "It's a new name," Roe said. "We had to work with the appropriators and the Office of Management and the Budget to make sure they were on board with our general approach. The name is something after the fact.

"We have been briefing people on the Hill and in OMB about the plans for this project and will continue to do so. Most of the interest is on what the FBI is doing" to apply technology to its mission, Roe said.

Bureau director Robert Mueller III has not yet announced the beginning of Sentinel, nor has he officially ended the VCF project. Officials said he likely would do so in Senate appropriations committee testimony May 24.

Mueller admitted in Senate testimony in January before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that the bureau had squandered $104 million on VCF software that will not be reused.

FBI officials said Sentinel would provide the bureau's special agents and other employees with:

  • Automated workflow tools

  • Search capabilities

  • Record and case management tools

  • Reporting protocols.

The bureau plans to run the Sentinel procurement through the National Institute of Health's Government Wide Acquisition Contract office, officials said. NIH and FBI officials currently are overseeing a technical feasibility study for Sentinel, officials said.

The bureau has not yet appointed a project manager for Sentinel. Officials said the FBI is conducting an executive search that would include looking at Senior Executive Service leaders in other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as well as private sector executives.

"We have taken the lessons learned [from the VCF program] so we are better positioned to shape this next generation of electronic information management systems," an official said.

"Sentinel will go beyond [the capabilities of] VCF," the official added. "It is part of a larger service-oriented architecture, to develop and deploy services and capabilities to FBI employees." Bureau officials say they expect to be able to add, remove or modify the system's capabilities more easily because of its service-oriented architecture.

Each phase of the four-phase project will be a standalone capability, one official said. The phased rollout plan is intended to facilitate training, the transition from old to new systems, the systems' deployment and support.

FBI CIO Zal Azmi issued a memorandum to all FBI employees on May 10 describing some of the achievements of the CIO office, which he has led since May 6, 2004.

Senior bureau officials from across the country recently met in Washington to review the concept of operations for Sentinel.

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