It’s another day and another cost overrun in the federal government. This time it’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Sentinel project, which is supposed to create a new web-based electronic case management system for agents and analysts. Sentinel was projected to cost $425 million and be completed by December 2009. Instead, Sentinel is over-budget and behind schedule.
This isn’t the first time the FBI has tried to move away from a paper-based system to an electronic system. According to the Justice Department’s inspector general, a project begun in 2001 was abandoned in 2005 due to “a variety of reasons, including poorly defined design requirements, a lack of mature management processes, high management turnover, and poor oversight.”
The inspector general says that $405 million of the $451 budgeted for Sentinel has been spent, but only 2 of the 4 project phases have been substantially completed and that “the most challenging development work for Sentinel still remains.” Moreover, Phase 2 “delivered significantly less functionality to FBI users than originally planned.” For instance, users have complained that it doesn’t even have auto-save capability or an integrated spell-checker.
Sentinel is currently 32 percent over-budget and two years behind schedule. Worse, an independent assessment of the project concluded that the project will need another $351 to $453 million and won’t be finished for another 6 to 8 years. As the inspector general notes, “the longer the full implementation of Sentinel takes, the more likely it is that already implemented hardware and software features will become obsolete.”