The Federal Bureau of Investigation has suspended work on parts of a huge computer overhaul, the latest costly setback in a decade-long effort to develop a modernized information system to combat crime and terrorism, the New York Times reports. The work was supposed to be completed this fall, but now will not be done until next year at the earliest. The delay could mean at least $30 million in cost overruns on a project considered vital to national security.
The changes are intended to allow agents to better navigate investigative files, search databases and communicate with one another. The decision to suspend work on the $305 million program is striking because contractor Lockheed Martin was announced to great fanfare in 2006 after the collapse of an earlier incarnation of the project with the Science Applications International Corporation. FBI computers were so inadequate that many agents until several years ago could not send or receive e-mail messages, and had difficulty getting case histories and linking to other databases. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, agents in Florida had to send photographs of the hijackers by overnight mail to Washington because they could not send e-mail attachments. The current project, known as Sentinel, has fixed some longstanding problems, including difficulties with e-mail and database searching. Officials recently realized that problems like slow response times, awkward display pages and screen print that was too small were cropping up.