FBI awards contract for technology upgrade

The FBI on Thursday awarded a $305 million contract to Lockheed Martin to modernize the bureau's information technology infrastructure.

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., has been tasked with managing the FBI's Sentinel project, an initiative to move the bureau away from its paper-based, case-focused system and build a comprehensive electronic network to share and store information. The FBI estimates the project will cost about $425 million to complete.

"Success is not an option," said Linda Gooden, Lockheed Martin's president of information technology at a press conference. "It is a mandate."

Under the contract, which is contingent on performance, Lockheed Martin will be awarded $305 million over six years to develop and deploy the Sentinel framework. FBI Chief Information Officer Zalmai Azmi said he expected the first phase of the project, which includes the construction of a "one-stop shop" Web portal providing access to the bureau's older systems, will be competed in the next year.

According to Azmi, the full Sentinel system will be deployed by 2009. The final years of the contract will be used for operational and maintenance purposes, he said. The finished product will replace existing segmented information applications and establish an IT network that is interoperable with other intelligence agencies.

Azmi said he is confident the project will be completed on time and on budget. But the bureau's past efforts to upgrade its IT capabilities have been riddled by financial and technological problems. FBI Director Robert Mueller last year scrapped the bureau's previous attempt, the Virtual Case File program, which cost about $170 million.

Gooden said her company is not fazed by the failure of programs that preceded Sentinel. According to Gooden, Lockheed Martin intends to build the system with very little custom developed software, and to keep an average of 200 employees working on the project throughout the 6-year contract.

FBI Inspector General Glenn Fine issued a 70-page audit report on Monday outlining problems the bureau encountered administering the Virtual Case File project. Fine said the FBI has made a number advances since it terminated the program, including stabilizing its corps of personnel charged with upgrading its IT capacity.

But Fine expressed concern about the FBI's hiring of CIA program manager Miodrag Lazarevich to head the Sentinel project. He said the success of the program would depend largely on whether Lazarevich, who was appointed to a two-year detail with an option for a third, remains at the post or if the FBI can transition smoothly to new leadership after his departure.

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