Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
FBI Oversight Hearing
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Chairman Leahy, thank you for calling this hearing. I thank Director Mueller for coming up here today to discuss some very important matters. Since the Director was last before the committee in January, there have been a number of high profile issues at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Most of these issues are related to the FBI's continuing mission to address the national security threats our nation faces. This includes the failed bombing in Times Square and the recent arrest and subsequent deportation of a number of Russian spies. The FBI has done a commendable job in continuing to face these threats, but there are still areas the FBI needs to address. I hope to discuss a number of important topics with the Director and look forward to candid answers.
The FBI's Sentinel Case Management Computer System
The FBI continues to have problems with the nearly decade long upgrade of its case management computer system. The current iteration, known as Sentinel, follows the failed taxpayer boondoggle of the Virtual Case File system that cost taxpayers over $100 million and provided no usable system. The Sentinel system was announced in March 2006 and the contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin to develop the $425 million system. Sentinel was projected to be completed by December 2009. However, delays and cost overruns have increased the projected cost to $451 million and the project completion date was pushed back until September 2010.
In March, I first learned that the development timeline and cost of the project were in jeopardy. That month, the FBI issued the first "stop-work" order to Lockheed Martin halting their ongoing work on phases 3 and 4 of the project to refocus efforts on completing a now delayed phase 2. I wrote to FBI Director Mueller asking a number of questions about this development and what the delay would do to the final timeline and cost of the project. The FBI responded to some questions but deflected a number of key questions related to the timing and cost. Following my letter, the Inspector General for the Department of Justice issued a report on the FBI's progress with Sentinel. The Inspector General stated, "We have serious concerns about the progress of the FBI's Sentinel project." He added, "As of March 2010, the FBI does not have official cost or schedule estimates for completing Sentinel." Finally, he found, "FBI officials have acknowledge(d) that the project will cost more than its latest revised estimate of $451 million and will likely not be completed until 2011." This is absolutely unacceptable for large scale procurement and is particularly egregious given the FBI's previous failure on Virtual Case File.
Compounding matters, I recently wrote for a second time to FBI Director Mueller because the FBI issued another stop-work order to Lockheed Martin extending the previous order. This second stop-work order should be a concern to all members of this committee and taxpayers alike. While I appreciate the FBI cutting off work on a project before it completely fails, it is starting to appear that the FBI and Lockheed Martin are not going to be able to complete Sentinel in the near future. Further, it appears that completing this project will take millions more taxpayer dollars.
The FBI and Lockheed Martin are at a crossroads on the Sentinel project. Director Mueller must take ownership of this project which has spiraled out of control and off budget. The FBI continues to negotiate with Lockheed Martin about the projected timeline to finish Sentinel, but the Director must provide answers to a number of questions and not simply provide the standard bureaucratic answers if he wants to regain the trust of Congress on Sentinel. I plan to ask him what has happened with the negotiations with Lockheed, how much more taxpayer money they intend to ask Congress for, whether Lockheed Martin is the best contractor to finish the job, why the cost has spiraled out of control, why the FBI has modified the contract hundreds of times via contract modifications and "change orders" within those modifications, and whether it'll ever be possible to finish this never ending procurement. There are a lot of questions that need answering before Congress should consider providing one additional dollar to the FBI for Sentinel.
FBI Cooperation with the Government Accountability Office (GAO)
I also want to ask the FBI Director about the FBI's cooperation with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO initiated a review of FBI counterterrorism vacancies at my request, joined by a bipartisan group of Members from both House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The review is human capital focused and is similar to prior work GAO conducted at the FBI from 2002-2004. The objectives of the current review are to assess: (1) the extent of FBI counterterrorism vacancies and the reasons for the vacancies, (2) the trends in these vacancy rates over time, (3) implications of these vacancies for the Bureau's mission, and (4) the authorities and strategies the FBI is using to address the vacancies
Unfortunately, the GAO has been repeatedly denied access to information it needs from the FBI. In follow-up questions on this topic following the last hearing, Director Mueller stated that "aspects of the review...constituted intelligence oversight" and that "it is the longstanding position of the intelligence community to decline to participate in GAO reviews that evaluate intelligence activities." I find it curious that the FBI did not have this reaction to the same sort of GAO request in the past. In fact, the FBI worked closely with GAO when it conducted its previous FBI reviews in 2002-2004. Unfortunately, the GAO has encountered bureaucratic roadblocks from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) which claimed that GAO lacks the authority to evaluate most FBI counterterrorism positions, as these positions are scored through the National Intelligence Program (NIP) Budget.
I am alarmed at this effort to cut off GAO access to information that they have previously collected in the past. I am also concerned that this lack of cooperation is part of a greater initiative to limit the ability of Congress to conduct oversight. Further, I have serious concerns that the reliance on the OLC opinion at issue here could have greater impact on the Judiciary Committee as a whole and our ability to adequately evaluate the management and performance of critical FBI components. I will ask the Director a number of questions related to this matter and hope he will be responsive.
Finally, I want to ask the Director about the recent supplemental budget request submitted to the Congress by the Department of Justice and the White House. This request seeks an additional 44 FBI agents and an additional 34 full time employees. I want to know why the FBI needs the additional agents in light of the 145 agents deployed to the border, as the Director discusses in his written statement. I'm concerned that temporary accounting via supplemental funding could lead to serious problems in the FY2011 budget. I want to know how the FBI will account for these additional personnel in future years to ensure that agent positions in critical counterterrorism and national security areas are not left vacant because of these new positions. Given the current fiscal constraints of the federal budget and the swelling deficit, I want to know if the FBI is best suited for this mission or if these resources are best directed to the Border Patrol or other federal agencies with a more permanent presence on the Southwest Border.
I look forward to Director Mueller's testimony and his responses to these important matters.