FBI keeps close tabs on Sentinel

The FBI is on track to deploy the second phase of its Sentinel case file management system within weeks, said FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"Phase Two is on schedule to begin implementation in the spring. And it's within the planned cost," Muller told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science April 1.

Lockheed Martin Corp. is developing Sentinel under a six-year contract for $335 million, Muller said. Full costs may be as high as $425 million, however, because the FBI is using a spiral-development strategy allowing for incremental changes and adjustments to new technologies along the way, he said.

Mueller said the FBI is satisfied with the Phase One products developed thus far, including a Web-based portal and work boxes that summarize cases and leads. But the products are likely to be used more frequently by FBI employees once Phase Two is implemented, he said.

"Staff use is not as high as we would like at this juncture because, really, the core of the program is coming in?Phases Two and Three," Mueller said.

The greatest difficulty now lies in migrating data from the outdated Automated Case Support system, Mueller said.

"The problem that we face and many companies face is that?the ACS database is an antiquated database. The persons who knew that database way back? are few and far between. And much of the monies ? and upgrading ? goes to identifying the pathways by which you can migrate the data into the new database," Mueller said.

Full capabilities are expected to be available by 2010. But the FBI also may develop some phases more quickly than expected through the use of spiral development and push those improvements out to the field.

As we bring in some pieces of the program earlier, there may be a modest savings in terms of cost, Mueller said.

Sentinel is the FBI's latest effort to update its case management system. A previous effort, Virtual Case File, was abandoned in 2005.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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