FBI's troubled case-file costs soar
Now, even as the bureau tries to figure out how to sell its bosses at Justice and on Capitol Hill on the new price tag, the FBI's financial gurus are trying to figure a way to soften the blow. They've asked all division heads to release a substantial percentage of their funds from the remainder of the fiscal 2005 budget (which ends September 30), and get out of 60 to 70 contracts bureau-wide so they can use that money to begin the process of putting out requests for proposals for a new software program they're calling Sentinel; Sentinel will largely rely on off-the-shelf software, as opposed to the custom-designed package in VCF. However, this has placed the division heads in a bind because they had previously been told to commit all of their fiscal 2005 funds by June 15, and most have done so.
"This continues to be smoke and mirrors with Mueller saying it's not that bad, and his people way down below saying 'it's horrible,' " says one official. "He either doesn't get it or he doesn't want to say it out loud."
Cassandra Chandler, assistant director of the FBI's Office of Public Affairs, told U.S. News in a written statement that despite the failure of the broader VCF project, pilot testing of the Virtual Case file run out of the New Orleans field office gave the FBI "invaluable information about its current and future approach to information technology." Chandler added that "as a result of VCF, the FBI is better situated to roll out successful IT initiatives in the future." Chandler said that although "at this time, there is no complete cost estimate for the full Sentinel program," the new software venture "goes well beyond the envisioned capabilities for VCF."