After years of costly delays, a long-awaited computerized system for managing the FBI's caseload remains far from completion and risks coming so late that it will be obsolete on arrival, a Justice Department report warned Wednesday.
The Sentinel system was designed as a user-friendly paperless way to manage cases that would be ready in December 2009 at a cost $425 million. It replaced an earlier $170 million computer program that was scrapped after consultants deemed it outdated and riddled with problems.
The program's funding was raised to $451 million in 2008 but the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General said the project is now $100 million over budget and nowhere near finished.
It warned that the longer Sentinel takes to complete, "the more likely it is that already implemented hardware and software features will become obsolete."
The report recommended that the FBI reassess the program's requirements _ including one that it integrate millions of records from the largely paper-based system now being used _ and to focus on requirements that most affect agents and analysts.
In a letter to the Office of Inspector General, the FBI said it agreed with the recommendations and had already started working on them.
But in a statement issued Wednesday, FBI Associate Deputy Director Thomas J. Harrington criticized the report, saying it relied on outdated cost estimates and didn't give the FBI enough credit for making changes to the program.
Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the report "disheartening."
"Information exchange is critical to protecting our national security," Leahy said.