FBI computer upgrade encounters serious hurdle, delayed until 2011

Still, the upgrade seemed on track, until FBI chief Robert Mueller told lawmakers at an appropriations hearing that the overhaul had experienced minor problems. However, his statements piqued Grassley and other members of Congress, who suspected a more serious delay was afoot.

He and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) thus sent a letter to Mueller on Wednesday, obtained Friday by The Hill. In it, the lawmakers press the FBI administrator to answer key questions about the nature of the system delay, its proposed cost and likely duration.

"We remain very concerned about the ability of the FBI to complete the Sentinel project on time and budget," they wrote. "We have not forgotten the FBI's previous attempt at creating an automated case management system, the failed Virtual Case File System, which cost federal taxpayers over $100 million and ultimately finished with no workable system."

"Given the current financial condition of the U.S. government and the increasing federal deficits, it is imperative the FBI remain committed to finishing Sentinel on time and on budget," they wrote, asking for more information no later than March 31.