FBI CIO Exits, With Sentinel Project Nearly Done - InformationWeek

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3/27/2012
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FBI CIO Exits, With Sentinel Project Nearly Done

Chad Fulgham, a former Wall Street tech exec, says software development for FBI's delayed Sentinel case-management system is now complete.

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FBI CIO Chad Fulgham, who has overseen the agency's Sentinel case-management project for the past three years, plans to leave the agency in April to return to the private sector. Sentinel is due for completion within the next few months.

Fulgham joined the agency in August 2008 from the private sector, where he worked as senior VP of IT for Lehman Brothers and, before that, at IBM and JP Morgan Chase. A 1996 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Fulgham served five years in the Navy before going to work on Wall Street.

At the FBI, Fulgham drove several initiatives to upgrade the agency's aging IT infrastructure, replacing old PCs and desktop applications with new machines and Microsoft's latest collaboration tools, and deploying to a Cisco-based IP network. He reorganized the FBI's Information and Technology Branch to make it more business aligned and services oriented. FBI director Robert Mueller, in a statement on Fulgham's departure, credits his "corporate-style management."

[ Watch your step on Facebook--the FBI might be reading. See FBI Seeks Data-Mining App for Social Media. ]

Fulgham's biggest challenge has been an expensive, long-term project to replace the agency's outdated paper-based case management processes with a new digital case-management system called Sentinel. In March 2006, the FBI awarded a $305 million contract to Lockheed Martin to lead development of Sentinel, with completion planned for 2009.

But Sentinel, amid repeated delays, fell behind schedule and its budget grew to $451 million. In September 2010, Fulgham decided to bring the project in house, reduce Lockheed's role, and use internal resources and agile development methodology to hasten its completion. At the time, he aimed to complete the project by September 2011.

A test of the system last fall, however, revealed "significant" performance issues, which were attributed to overburdened legacy hardware, according to a report by the Inspector General. As a result, the FBI was forced to acquire new servers capable of handling the workload.

In the statement announcing Fulgham's departure, the FBI said Sentinel is now slated to begin operating this summer. "The software coding is done, the new hardware is in place, and it has been quite impressive during initial performance testing," Fulgham said in the statement.

Sentinel promises to improve case management at the FBI by introducing digital records and automated workflow. It's being closely watched because it represents a shift from the kind of multi-year software development projects that were common in federal agencies in the past to an approach that emphasizes near-term deliverables and regular adjustments.

As federal agencies embrace devices and apps to meet employee demand, the White House seeks one comprehensive mobile strategy. Also in the new Going Mobile issue of InformationWeek Government: Find out how the National Security Agency is developing technologies to make commercial devices suitable for intelligence work. (Free registration required.)

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