FBI Moves from Paper to an Electronic Database{5}


The FBI has always been known for their high-tech equipment they use from computer forensic equipment to the specialized tech gear that agents use. However, it wasn’t until recently when the FBI finally completed a new database system that eliminates paper files and moves to a more modern approach of digitizing paperwork. This new electronic file management system is called Sentinel and it was originally scheduled for completion in 2009 with an estimated budget of $425 million. Due to delays and poor planning and organization, it was about three years late and about $26 million over budget. This project of transferring the FBI to an electronic system was contracted to Lockhead Martin Corporation, who managed the project, but was taken over by the FBI due to delays.

Before Sentinel was an established project, the FBI experimented with another form of digitized file management system, called Virtual Case File, which ended in failure in 2005 after the agency spent $170 million. After that, Sentinel quickly preceded and when the FBI took over, they used an agile development method to get the project done as fast as possible. Now that Sentinel has been rolled out throughout the agency, is now used by thousands of FBI personnel to input data and information into a web-based interface and to search for information with much efficiency.

In relation to this week’s topic of the database development process, I found this article about the FBI’s development of their Sentinel database to be exactly what we are learning in the chapter. In the chapter, I learned about the software development life cycle (SDLC) and the different types of steps used to complete a project in time and within budget. It takes much planning and analysis to get such a huge project completed successfully, and also an exceptional project manager to make it happen. When designing such a database, everything needs to be taken into account, from the design and allocation of attributes to data, to the user interface for users to easily learn and accept.

As a possible career path into the FBI’s IT field, it was intriguing to learn about the major developments the FBI had made to better manage and streamline all their data and information into one central database. Also the scope of the project is important too, considering all FBI agents will have to start using the new system. This requires much time commitment to handle the feedback from the end users to better improve the system. Although not every one will accept the change, it is important to provide hands-on training to those who are not tech savvy.

Perez, E. (2012, August 1). FBI files go digital, after years of delays. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444130304577561361556532528.html

Poeter, D. (2012, July 31). Years late and millions after budget, FBI’s Sentinel finally on line. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407922,00.asp