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Response to OIG Report on the FBI’s Sentinel Project

Washington, D.C. October 20, 2010
  • FBI National Press Office (202) 324-3691

The following is in response to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report titled, “Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Implementation of the Sentinel Project.”

“We believe that the interim report does not accurately reflect the FBI’s management of the Sentinel project, and fails to credit the FBI with taking corrective action to keep it on budget. Moreover, the interim report comes at a time when the FBI has changed its plan for completing the project, and the Department of Justice has authorized us to go forward with our new approach. The report, however, continues to rely on outdated cost estimates that do not apply to the current FBI plan."

The OIG has been actively involved in the Sentinel project from its inception in 2006. It has had extensive access to review the project, including broad access to documents, regular site visits, weekly meetings with managers, and on-site office space for OIG staff. In its six prior audits, the OIG recognized the FBI's use of sound management methods to monitor performance, control costs, use independent reviews, deploy pilots, and adopt lessons learned throughout the Sentinel project.1 The FBI has worked closely with the OIG during the project, implementing all 31 previous OIG recommendations, and continuing – even expanding upon – management techniques that the OIG has supported."

These management initiatives led the FBI to identify deficiencies in the Sentinel project in late 2009 and to take corrective actions in the spring of 2010. These steps were necessary to ensure the foundation for Sentinel going forward, and enable the FBI to deploy phase 2 of the project successfully in July 2010. Today, thousands of FBI employees use Sentinel each day for their work, including drafting interview reports, sending leads, and managing their caseloads. Moreover, the FBI recently received verbal authority from the National Archives and Records Administration to use forms now available on Sentinel as official FBI records. Unfortunately, the interim report does not fairly credit these management initiatives and achievements.

“The FBI has, along with the OIG, maintained a careful watch over the Sentinel project. In August, recognizing performance shortfalls and cost over-runs during parts of the project, the FBI made a difficult but sensible decision to develop an alternative plan for completing Sentinel. We examined several options in detail, and selected an approach based on what is known as “agile development” methodology. This approach will reduce our reliance on traditional contractors and allow for cost-savings by dealing directly with product experts. By using agile development and products not previously available for the Sentinel project, we expect to complete the essential functions of Sentinel within budget."

The interim report expresses “significant concern” about the FBI's new plan, yet it offers no alternative and recommends, in part, that we follow this course. Two of the OIG's three recommendations direct the FBI to reassess the functionality described in Sentinel's requirements and prioritize the remaining requirements to have the greatest impact on agents and analysts. This is what we have done in moving forward to complete Sentinel using agile development."

The interim report also includes an inflated cost estimate for completing Sentinel that is based on a worst case scenario for a plan that we are no longer using. The FBI discarded that approach in favor of agile development. In fact, outdated cost estimates of this sort led us to pursue our current approach.

“The FBI has and will continue to work with the OIG to review our use of agile development to complete the Sentinel project. However, we are concerned that this interim report does not comply with generally accepted government accounting standards, which the report acknowledges. In the future, the FBI requests that the OIG use these auditing standards in its review of the Sentinel project and not rely on “interim” reports that do not accurately reflect the status of the project.”

Thomas J. Harrington
Associate Deputy Director

View signed letter (PDF)

1 In its prior audits, the OIG recognized FBI’s sound management methods, noting its establishment of clear milestones and decision review points (Audit II at v, Audit III at vi), improvements in its systems for monitoring performance and controlling costs (Audit II at ii, Audit IV at vi), its use of independent verification and validation (Audit III at iv), and its willingness to incorporate lessons learned from previous challenges (Audit IV at xxii).