House panel: FBI 'scrambling' to launch VCF project

A House Appropriations Committee report says the FBI is hastening to prepare its latest attempt at a case file system and is cutting corners to do. The report also stated that the project speed-up would introduce some risk, but that bureau officials were relying on program oversight organizations to control the process.

The Appropriations Committee report, carried out by the panel's Surveys and Investigations Staff, recaps the failure of the Virtual Case File project to build an FBI case management system.

In an eerie foreshadowing of the new report's statement about hasty software work, VCF contractor Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego said earlier that its use of parallel software development teams to hasten the case management project contributed to its downfall.

The appropriations committee report called the VCF follow-on project "Enterprise Information Systems," as well as "VCF Track II" and "Project Z"?names used before officials chose the Sentinel designation for an updated and reshaped system.

According to the report, bureau officials decided to begin building system requirements and a concept of operations for Sentinel before obtaining an approved business case.

"Although working these efforts in parallel is contrary to the FBI's best practice lifecycle management principles, a bureau official advised that they are 'scrambling' to meet senior management's desire to move ahead quickly," according to the report.

"However, other FBI officials, while noting this parallel approach introduces some risk, advised that the risk will be mitigated since the project will not be allowed to go forward until approved by the FBI's Investment Management/Program Review Board," the report stated.

An FBI spokeswoman said: "The FBI has implemented a coordinated strategic approach to IT, which includes centralized management under the office of the CIO. Under this plan we have an enterprise architecture, a lifecycle management directive, defined IT processes and procedures, several IT governance boards, an IT investment management strategy and a portfolio management system.

"Implementation of these new processes and procedures has now better situated the FBI to develop new IT systems including the Sentinel program," the spokeswoman said.

Wilson P. Dizard III is a writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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