March 31, 2010 / 5:16 PM / 10 years ago

FBI's new computer system facing more costs, delay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A long-running effort to upgrade FBI computerized case files faced additional big cost overruns and a new delay, the U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report issued on Wednesday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the contractor Lockheed Martin Corp were renegotiating the budget — last estimated at $451 million — as well as the schedule and some of the work to be performed, the report said.

The system, known as Sentinel, had been expected to be completed by September but FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress earlier this month it would be delayed until 2011.

“We have significant concerns with the rate and cost at which Sentinel’s development is progressing,” the report said. “The FBI will require significant additional time and funding to address these issues.”

The report did not detail how much more it would cost, but the FBI said it planned to ask Congress for permission to take money from other technology programs to cover the latest overruns, according to the report.

There have been problems with FBI computer systems for more than a decade. The September 11, 2001 attacks prompted Mueller to try to speed up a massive upgrade.

Dissatisfied with the programs Lockheed has delivered so far, the FBI issued a partial stop-work order on March 3 so that problems could be addressed.

In tests of the new system, 82 percent of users reported it made their tasks much harder to complete than under existing practices.

One user said it took more than four minutes to attach a picture to a file and the process could not be stopped once started. Additionally, 91 percent of testers reported that messages to other FBI employees failed to go through.

The FBI said in a statement it expected to provide a new schedule and cost estimate soon and the problems did not affect its ability to do its job.

“The system works; we want it to work better,” the agency said.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Alan Elsner

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