There was a story in InformationWeek last week reporting that the FBI would now be taking over the management and much of the development work of the troubled $550 plus million Sentinel case management system program from prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
In March, US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller told the US House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies that the follow-on to the notoriously failed $170 million Virtual Case File (VCF) program would once again slip its schedule and cost targets, as the FBI had decided to suspend development of the last two phases of the four total pending an internal review. In July, the FBI said it was contemplating bringing the management as well as the development work back inside the Bureau. Now it is official.
According to InformationWeek:
"The agency plans to use agile development processes to complete the project using its own employees and other technology partners, while reducing its reliance on Lockheed Martin."
One reason, the InformationWeek story reported, was that a recent proposal by Lockheed Martin on the cost and time it required to complete the final two phases of the Sentinel program was "not acceptable."
InformationWeek quotes June Shrewsbury, Vice President of Lockheed’s security and citizen protection division, as saying:
"The FBI believes they have the ability to do things we can't do in a leadership role in a way that they can more affordably and efficiently implement the rest of the project requirements."
I detect a note of skepticism there.
The FBI implies that it will be using agile development processes, beginning next month, to finish the project as a means to reduce program cost and budget risk. However, while the FBI still says that it still plans to deliver Sentinel by 2011, it isn't guaranteeing that date because agile development performance, it says, is hard to predict.
I am sure Congress is going to love hearing that when it asks about Sentinel's progress at the next set of hearings on the FBI.
Given the major new directions in both management and development practices the FBI is taking, I seriously doubt that a 2011 delivery is realistic. It is interesting to note that this major change in direction was caused by what FBI Director Robert Mueller termed in his March congressional testimony of this year as only "minor" technical issues.
Lockheed Martin will continue to support what it has already delivered, at least for the time being. Layoffs of some of its staff are highly likely.
I guess we can now finally bury the idea that Sentinel is a model program for government procurement.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.