Courts & Crime

FBI’s Sentinel program wins a bit of praise, at last

The FBI’s costly Sentinel case-management program, long the cause of much official aggravation, wins a bit of praise in a new audit.

Surveying FBI employees, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General found general, though not universal, satisfaction with the records management system. The survey found a majority of FBI employees “reported that Sentinel has had an overall positive impact on the FBI’s operations, making the FBI better able to carry out its mission, and better able to share information.”

“The majority of survey respondents also reported that Sentinel had a positive impact on the FBI’s efficiency, by allowing improvements such as reducing the number of lost documents, decreasing the amount of time that it takes to get documents approved and improving the FBI’s ability to share documents within the FBI,” the audit stated.

It’s not cheap. Auditors noted the total budget for Sentinel since the initial deployment in July 2012 has increased from $451 million to $551.4 million.

FBI employees also reported having problems with the program’s indexing function, among other issues.

Sentinel is the follow-up to the ill-fated Virtual Case File program, which was abandoned in 2005 after the expenditure of $170 million.

Among other findings concerning Sentinel, the survey found that 57 percent of FBI employees reported a reduction in misplaced documentation; 69 percent reported that Sentinel has increased their ability to share information with colleagues; and, 60 percent of Special Agents reported they spent less time drafting electronic communications.