FBI denies Sentinel system is late, over budget

The FBI has gone out of its way to defend itself against charges that the fledgling Sentinel case management program is delayed and over budget.

The bureau is reviewing proposals to build Sentinel that have been submitted by teams led by Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md.

Last month, the Associated Press reported that Sentinel spending had swelled to $97 million in fiscal 2006 and $100 million in 2007, and that the project was behind schedule.

The administration's fiscal 2007 budget proposal calls for Sentinel spending amounting to $100 million. The department has not publicly committed to any 2006 Sentinel budget.

Spending on the program has been limited to internal agency expenditures and a contract with vendor Acquisition Solutions Inc. intended to help evaluate the competing proposals, according to industry and bureau sources. The bureau issued a press release last week stating that no money had been spent on Sentinel, which is true in the sense that no money has been spent on the main Sentinel systems integration contract.

The bureau itself has consistently refused to put a price tag on Sentinel. In one press event last year, the bureau's CIO, Zalmai Azmi, said that doing so would be like going to a car lot and saying that you had a certain amount of money to spend on a car. The result, Azmi continued, would be to get a car priced at exactly that amount or more.

FBI and industry sources involved in the process said earlier this year that they expected a contract award in January. The bureau defended its delay in awarding the contract in a press release stating, 'First, the Sentinel schedule is determined by the FBI contracting officer and the Sentinel program management team, who are engaged in a careful source selection process designed to ensure an incremental development schedule. Deliberation and attention to detail and a commitment to not repeating past mistakes are driving the schedule.'

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