The FBI Sentinel Project

The FBI Sentinel Project

Leah Olszewski (Troy University, USA) and Stephen C. Wingreen (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/jcit.2011070105
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In 2000, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated its Trilogy program in order to upgrade FBI infrastructure technologies, address national security concerns, and provide agents and analysts greater investigative abilities through creation of an FBI-wide network and improved user applications. Lacking an appropriate enterprise architecture foundation, IT expertise, and management skills, the FBI cancelled further development of Trilogy Phase 3, Virtual Case File (VCF), with prime contractor SAIC after numerous delays and increasing costs. The FBI began development of Sentinel in 2006 through Lockheed Martin. Unlike in the case of Trilogy, the FBI decided to implement a service-oriented architecture (SOA) provided in part by commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components, clarify contracts and requirements, increase its use of metrics and oversight through the life of the project, and employ IT personnel differently in order to meet Sentinel objectives. Although Lockheed Martin was eventually released from their role in the project due to inadequate performance, the project is still moving forward on account of the use of best practices. The case highlights key events in both VCF and Sentinel development and demonstrates the FBI’s IT transformation over the past four years.
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Setting The Stage

In July 2001, the FBI’s Assistant Director of Information Resources Division explained to a Senate Judiciary Committee that the FBI, although it had invested greatly in state and local law enforcement agencies information technology systems, had not made significant IT improvements to satisfy the basic investigative needs of its own agents and analysts, and the needs of national security. And, in fact, he testified the FBI had not made any “meaningful improvements” in information technology since at least 1995 (Dies, 2001). The events of 9/11 occurred only a few short months later, and highlighted the need for a redesign of the FBI information systems. Therefore, in order to correct issues, such as outdated hardware and software, reduced network connectivity, and non-existent applications for information storage, the FBI, in partnership with several defense contracting companies, began development on the Trilogy project in 2001.

Four years into the project however, over budget and behind schedule, the FBI terminated Trilogy during its third and crucial phase, virtual case file (VCF) development. Initially, neither the FBI nor the prime contractor, SAIC (Science Applications International Corp.), took responsibility for the failed project. In the end, FBI Director Robert Mueller accepted the FBI’s role in the collapse of Trilogy, but still in need of an effective electronic investigative case management system and a solution to permit the retirement of the FBI’s legacy automated case system (ACS), he requested Congressional support to create Sentinel (Mueller, 2005). The greatest concern to Congress was whether or not the FBI had learned enough from Trilogy and how the FBI would implement changes so that Sentinel development would be efficient and satisfy system requirements.

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