Information Technology:

FBI Has Largely Staffed Key Modernization Program, but Strategic Approach to Managing Program's Human Capital Is Needed

GAO-07-19: Published: Oct 16, 2006. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2006.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently began a 6-year, $425 million program called Sentinel to replace and expand on both its failed Virtual Case File (VCF) project and its antiquated, paper-based, legacy system for supporting mission-critical intelligence analysis and investigative case management activities. Because of the FBI's experience with VCF and the importance of Sentinel, GAO was requested to address a number of program management issues associated with acquiring Sentinel via a prime development contractor. This report focuses on one of these issues: whether the FBI is adequately providing for the program's human capital needs. The findings are based on GAO's review of relevant program documentation, interviews with program officials, and human capital management guidance.

To its credit, the FBI has moved quickly to staff its Sentinel program office. During the last year, it created a staffing plan for Sentinel, which defines the positions needed for the program, and it has filled most of the positions in the plan, primarily by using contract staff (77 percent). However, a few key program management positions remain to be filled. More importantly, the Sentinel staffing plan addresses only the program office's immediate staffing needs. It does not provide for the kind of strategic human capital management focus that GAO's research and evaluations have shown to be essential to the success of any organizational entity. For example, the staffing plan was not derived using a documented, data-driven methodology and does not provide for inventorying the knowledge and skills of existing staff, forecasting future knowledge and skill needs, analyzing gaps in capabilities between the existing staff and future workforce needs, (including consideration of expected succession needs), and formulating strategies for filling expected gaps. Exacerbating this situation is that the FBI is not proactively managing Sentinel human capital availability as a program risk; it has not included human capital in the program's risk inventory nor has it developed and implemented a proactive risk mitigation strategy, even though program documents cite human capital as both a challenge and a risk. According to program officials, they plan to manage their human capital needs in the same way as when they initially staffed the program office, in part because the bureau's IT system life cycle management policies and procedures do not require them to do otherwise. Unless the FBI adopts a more strategic approach to managing human capital for the Sentinel program and treats human capital as a program risk, the chances of delivering required intelligence and investigative support capabilities in a timely and cost-effective manner are reduced.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To strengthen the FBI's management of its Sentinel program and to better ensure that the program delivers required capabilities and expected benefits on time and within budget, the FBI director should have the bureau's Chief Information Officer (CIO) establish IT program management policies and procedures for strategically managing IT programs' human capital needs and ensure that these policies and procedures are fully implemented on all major IT programs, including Sentinel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on the draft of this report, FBI agreed with our recommendation, and has since taken substantive steps toward its implementation. In September 2010, FBI's Chief Information Officer published a bureau-wide Information Technology (IT) Strategic Plan. A key goal of the plan is to strategically manage IT human capital across all its major IT programs, as we recommended. The plan establishes objectives such as identifying and recruiting talent to close IT skill gaps; maximizing the use of FBI resources; aligning workforce skills to achieve IT strategic goals and objectives; and promoting continuous learning and formal training programs for proactive skills development. FBI has also taken actions to implement the plan's objectives. For instance, in September 2011, FBI officials provided evidence that its FBI's Information Technology Management Division has formally established a project management career path for FBI program managers to promote continuous learning and formal training for IT management.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the FBI's management of its Sentinel program and to better ensure that the program delivers required capabilities and expected benefits on time and within budget, the FBI director should have the CIO treat and manage both Sentinel program office and prime contractor human capital availability as program risks and periodically report to the Director on the status and results of efforts to mitigate these risks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In December 2006, the Sentinel program office identified human capital risks and associated mitigation strategies for both the bureau and the prime contractor. Since that time, however, FBI has not demonstrated management or mitigation of these risks. In August 2011, FBI officials explained that they had not periodically reported the status of human capital risks to the FBI director because, in their view, the severity of such risks was low and they would begin reporting if the severity were to increase. Moreover, the bureau provided no evidence that the results of Sentinel human capital risk mitigation efforts were presented to the director.

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