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5/17/2010
01:50 PM
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FBI CIO Unveils Next-Gen IT Strategy

Despite a setback to its Sentinel case-management system, the agency is deploying a high-speed network, new Office-based PCs, and other infrastructure improvements.

The FBI has completed an agency-wide upgrade to its network infrastructure and is six months into deployment of a new Microsoft Office-based PC environment in its field offices. In addition, the FBI's new case-management system, Sentinel, has begun Phase 2 pilot testing, despite delays that have pushed Sentinel's completion into 2011.

FBI CIO Chad Fulgham last week outlined the agency's IT strategy and progress in an interview with InformationWeek at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters. It was the first time that Fulgham has given an overview of the agency's IT initiatives since he joined the FBI in December 2008, after working as an IT executive in the private sector for Lehman Bros., IBM, and JPMorgan Chase.

As a first step, Fulgham last year reorganized the FBI's Information and Technology Branch to make it more "business aligned and services oriented." The IT Branch is comprised of a Management Division of program and project managers that work closely with the agency's other departments, an Engineering Division that engineers software and services, and an IT Services Division that manages everything from 26,000 BlackBerrys to the agency's data centers.

Last August, the FBI's IT Branch hired a chief marketing officer, Stephanie Derrig, charged with bringing a more common look and feel to its various enterprise applications and facilitating uptake of those apps by agency employees. The IT Branch has created an internal portal, based on Microsoft's SharePoint, with a page for every new product and service it offers.

The FBI has replaced its ATM/Frame Relay network with a new Cisco-based IP infrastructure that utilizes Multiprotocol Label Switching for higher performance. The new net, dubbed Next Generation Network, serves as a backbone for three FBI networks -- the unclassified UNet, classified FBINet, and top secret SCION network -- and extends to some 800 FBI locations. The network provides 45 times as much backbone capacity as the one it replaced, as well as doubling access speed at network endpoints.

The network replacement was a necessary precursor to the introduction of upgraded PCs that bring a range of new tools and capabilities to FBI special agents and other employees. The configuration of the FBI's so-called Next Generation Workstation comprises Office 2007 and Windows XP running on a Dell PC with dual-core processor. As a cost saving measure, the FBI upgraded existing PCs with new hardware where possible.

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