The FBI's Sentinel is under close watch

Our EA is not as mature as we would like, but it is progressing and we do not intend to rest until it is finished.'

'Zalmai Azmi, FBI CIO

Henrik G. De Gyor

The FBI must overhaul its personnel practices, shape up its enterprise architecture and embrace commercial software, or it risks another case management system fiasco, analysts inside and outside the government say.

The warnings come as the bureau is about to award a contract to build Sentinel, its latest stab at automating paper-based data management, and as lawmakers are stepping up their oversight.

'We have asked the Government Accountability Office to look at it, [the subcommittee staff] to look at it and the inspector general at the Justice Department to look at it, and they have come up with a number of recommendations,' said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce and Related Agencies in a telephone interview last week.

The oversight groups and the FBI have laid out some additional parameters for Sentinel's success, he added.

All the oversight teams reviewing Sentinel have concluded that the bureau should move ahead with the case management project, Wolf said.

'The bureau will be giving Justice's inspector general periodic reports on Sentinel's progress,' he said.

In a recent letter to Wolf, GAO cited some risks, including an incomplete enterprise architecture and the need to hire qualified IT workers.

FBI CIO Zalmai Azmi responded to GAO's concerns in a letter to GCN citing reforms that are intended to avoid another meltdown.

Azmi rejected the auditors' view that the bureau's fledgling enterprise architecture, poor contractor performance measurement and undermanned technology cadre were unequal to the task of launching Sentinel.

The bureau now is evaluating proposals for a systems integrator for Sentinel. It is set to replace the defunct Virtual Case File project, which foundered last year after costing more than $100 million.

The bureau received only two proposals for Sentinel, from Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. Lockheed Martin officials confirmed that they are bidding on the contract, while Northrop Grumman officials did not comment on Sentinel.

The FBI's contracting team is reviewing final contract changes and likely will award the contract this month, according to sources inside and outside the bureau.

The Sentinel contract could be worth up to $170 million, according to market research firm Input of Reston, Va.

Though GAO cited the FBI's incomplete enterprise architecture as a risk factor, auditors said urgent mission needs could nevertheless justify proceeding with a major IT project.

The auditors went on to criticize the bureau's poor oversight of its EA contractor, which is working without performance-based contracting controls.

The FBI faces additional risks because of problems with its human capital programs, according to GAO. The auditors said recently that four key architect positions were vacant.

The FBI is hiring a human capital contractor to pinpoint gaps between the bureau's need for employee training, pay and nonpay incentive plans, as well as professional development practices and its existing practices, GAO said.

The National Academy of Public Administration has advised the FBI on personnel issues for three years. Last fall, NAPA issued a study titled Transforming the FBI: Roadmap to an Effective Human Capital Program.

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