FBI disputes U.S.News cost estimates
FBI officials today disputed cost estimates for replacing a failed and costly software package known as the Virtual Case File in a story posted by U.S. News on its website yesterday evening. [FBI's troubled case-file costs soar]
The magazine's website reported at 6:30 p.m. yesterday that FBI officials, in planning meetings to prepare the bureau's fiscal 2007 budget, estimated the replacement cost for the Virtual Case File system at $792 million. FBI Director Robert Mueller estimated in congressional testimony that the loss to taxpayers from the collapse of the VCF project was $104 million.
Mueller scrapped the VCF project in March, saying it wouldn't fulfill his goal of replacing the bureau's antiquated paper-based records system with an easily searchable and sophisticated electronic database. The bureau is working on a system to replace the VCF package, called Sentinel.
In a press briefing at FBI headquarters this afternoon, FBI officials disputed the figure cited in the U.S. News account but declined to state the actual cost estimates for Sentinel, saying it was premature to release any figures to potential vendors. Zalmai Azmi, the FBI's chief information officer, said the purpose of the budget-planning meetings cited by U.S. News, on April 18 and 25, were to discuss general budget appropriations and not the VCF replacment project.
"At this point," Azmi said, "there is no complete cost estimate for the Sentinel program."
Yesterday, U.S. News provided details of the story about the FBI's computer problems, but in her written response, Cassandra Chandler, assistant director in the Office of Public Affairs, did not dispute the figures in the story. "The planned Sentinel program, which is the FBI's first deployment in a Service Oriented Architecture, goes well beyond the envisioned capabilities for VCF," Chandler wrote. "The FBI has released a request for information on the Sentinel program through the National Institutes of Health's Government-Wide Acquisition Contract office. At this time, there is no complete cost estimate for the full Sentinel program."
U.S.News & World Report stands by its original account.