The Information and Technology Branch (ITB) is modernizing the FBI’s aging information technology (IT) infrastructure. Every employee, detailee, Task Force member, and contractor within the FBI relies heavily on IT to successfully execute its mission. The ITB operates and maintains a multitude of computerized systems, networks, databases and applications.
By the late 1990s, the FBI recognized the need to modernize its computer systems and networks and proposed a major technology upgrade plan that would take place in three phases. The Information Technology Upgrade Plan was the FBI’s largest information technology modernization plan to date. The plan was to upgrade networks, hardware and software platforms, and user applications.
At that time, FBI employees were using computer systems that were based on 1980s technology. These systems could not run basic web-based software packages. Interoffice communication at some resident agencies was hampered by slow dial-up connections using only 56K modems. And, many of the FBI’s databases and computer systems were operated through stand-alone terminals and did not integrate with other systems in other programs throughout the FBI.
The events of September 11, 2001, highlighted the FBI’s need for a robust IT infrastructure that could integrate and manage the FBI’s information across several computer systems to support its mission. Director Robert S. Mueller, III listed the priority “to upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI’s mission” among his top 10 for transforming the FBI.
The Director’s congressional testimony in June 2002 highlighted his view of the necessity for the FBI to modernize its IT infrastructure. “Technology is intertwined with the bureaucracy. We have a paper bureaucracy that has built up over 90 years. There are ways of doing things that are torturous—burdensome, if not torturous—let me just put it that way. And the technology is going to make a large difference in how we change as an organization.
I believe that our move to change the technology in the next two or three years will have a dramatic impact on the way we do business ... giving the agents the tools they need to be interactive ... and free up the bureau in a substantial number of ways.”
By 2003, approximately 30,000 new desktop computers and 3,689 printers, 1,600 scanners, 465 servers and over 1,300 routers were deployed. More than 7,500 desktop computers were upgraded. Old local and wide area networks were replaced with a state-of-the-art secure high speed communications system that now links desktop and databases throughout the FBI. Employees who require access to a TOP SECRET, Special Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) network can now communicate with the FBI’s partners in the Intelligence Community (IC). The installation of the Department of Defense’s SIPRNET (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) meant that FBI employees have greater means to send and receive secure information with their partners in the IC. Future IT improvements call for replacing 20 percent of the FBI’s oldest IT hardware each year, as funding permits, to minimize obsolescence.
Key to building the FBI’s IT infrastructure was the implementation of a centralized and coordinated, strategic approach under the direction of the Chief Information Officer. Today, thanks to the dedication and hard work of skilled IT professionals within the ITB, the FBI has an IT infrastructure that is modern, fast, and secure. This infrastructure ties together the applications and databases used throughout the FBI. Its web-based software applications are user-friendly, reduce the reliance on paper records, and streamline investigative workflow. These improvements have greatly enhanced the FBI’s ability to collect, store, analyze, and share information.
The ITB supports basic administrative functions, law enforcement activities, information sharing, intelligence gathering, and counterterrorism. At any one time, there are more than 70 IT applications and infrastructure programs in use or under development to support FBI personnel, local, state and law enforcement partners. Today, state and local law enforcement have greater connectivity to FBI systems, from Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), to the Terrorist Screening Center, to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The FBI is sharing more information through its Joint Terrorism Task Forces. With these systems in place, the FBI is better able to communicate, coordinate, gather, analyze, and share intelligence.
As the FBI’s IT infrastructure continues to mature and grow, it also needs to remain flexible to deploy improved technologies and solutions to enable the FBI to protect the American public from terrorist attacks and prevent crime. The ITB remains committed to delivering enhanced IT capabilities that support the FBI’s ever-changing and challenging needs.