FBI Sentinel System Finally Goes Live, 6 Years and $451M Later

Finally, the FBI is getting with the times. It might be $26 million over budget and have arrived 30 months later the planned, but at long last the Sentinel case management system is up and running.

Sentinel is a digital records storage system has been designed to replace paper files. The system, which uses a Web-based interface for FBI employees to review and generate documents, finally went live on July 1, according to a report by Bloomberg earlier this week. Already, it’s believed that more than 30,000 agents, analysts and other employees at the FBI are using the system.

It is believed that the final cost of sentinel to some $451 million, significantly more than the $425 million that the FBI originally estimated when it first announced the project 2006. The system was supposed to have gone live in 2009, only to fall victim to numerous delays and cost overruns. In the end, the FBI got so fed up with outside contractors (such as Lockheed Martin) that they dropped them, finishing Sentinel in-house.

Not everyone believes $451 million figure however. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the true cost of the Sentinel project came to more than $600 million – this includes an additional $170 million the FBI spent on a previous project called Trilogy which was ultimately canned.

In addition, the Journal believes that the six years it took to develop Sentinel is also way off, pointing out that digitizing its records has been a priority for the FBI ever since 9/11. Following the attacks, it was pointed out that had better information sharing resources been available to FBI agents, the disaster may have been averted.

While there isn’t too much information about the system, the Wall Street Journal said that Sentinel’s user interface is somewhat similar to Microsoft Outlook; it features RSS feeds that allow agents to track changes made to files, an events calendar, and a search engine to scours the FBI’s database for records.