Science and Technology Branch

Two Lab Technicians

Overview

Technology plays an increasingly prevalent role in every aspect of daily life. Criminals and terrorists use technological innovations and trends to their advantage. To combat this threat, the Science and Technology Branch (STB) deploys the FBI’s world-renowned applied science and operational technology resources to support investigative and intelligence activities. The STB was established in 2006 and serves as the strategic leader of the FBI’s scientific, operational technology, and information sharing programs.

STB’s mission is to use science and technology to enhance operations and investigations. 

STB’s vision is to be the premier provider of applied science and technology capabilities that address the ever-evolving threat.

STB’s highly trained and specialized workforce of more than 6,000 personnel include special agents, forensic scientists, engineers, intelligence analysts, and professional staff. STB staff can be deployed worldwide at a moment’s notice to provide a broad array of scientific services and expertise to law enforcement and Intel communities. Our talented workforce manages massive amounts of data while developing advanced technological tools and techniques to solve crimes and stay ahead of threats.

Forensic Science

The criminal justice world has been shaped by forensic science, which has advanced crime investigations and allowed for the development of new technologies and capabilities.

The FBI’s scientists, lab technicians, engineers, intelligence analysts, forensic examiners, chemists, and professional staff support the criminal justice system by performing these key functions: 

  • Biometric analysis: Providing accurate, complete, and timely forensic analysis, including reporting, testimony, and technical support for latent print and DNA examinations. 
  • Scientific analysis: Providing accurate, complete, and timely forensic analysis, including reporting, testimony, and technical support for cryptanalysis, chemistry, firearms/toolmarks, questioned documents, and trace evidence examinations. 
  • Operational response: Identifying, documenting, and safely collecting, preserving, transporting, and exploiting evidence—which can include chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials—from crime scenes within the U.S. and abroad.
Security Monitors in Office Building

Operational Technology

Working with industry and other agencies, FBI scientists and engineers help keep the nation safe by providing sophisticated tools and techniques used across all FBI investigative programs, including: 

  • Digital forensics: Collecting and examining digital evidence gathered from computers, audio files, video recordings, images, commercial electronics, and portable electronic devices. 
  • Electronic surveillance: Developing and deploying tools and techniques to perform lawfully authorized intercepts of wired and wireless telecommunications and data network communications.  
  • Technical surveillance: Using technology and capabilities to covertly and lawfully surveil, track, or locate targets of interest in operational matters. 
  • Tactical operations: Deploying tools, systems, and equipment used in authorized, covert entries and searches. 

In addition, each FBI field office has technically trained agents, electronics technicians, and computer analysis response teams that provide technological services to meet unique investigative needs. 

Information Sharing

Information is at the heart of every successful case. The STB workforce brings data and material together from various sources and provides superior data access, analysis, and law enforcement community connectivity into the hands of special agents and law enforcement worldwide to deter criminal activity and terrorism. 

Types of information sharing provided by STB include:  

  • Crime reporting: Collecting, publishing, and archiving reliable uniform crime statistics using data from nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies. 
  • Biometrics: Expanding traditional law enforcement and intelligence community investigative tools such as fingerprint examination and DNA analysis to encompass new forms of identification—including palm prints, iris and facial patterns, and Rapid DNA. 
  • Law Enforcement Online: Hosting a secure, web-based communications system through the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal that is available 24/7 to more than 100,000 law enforcement, criminal justice, and anti-terrorism professionals; first responders; and intelligence agencies around the world. 
  • Criminal background checks: Coordinating a network of databases that include federal and state records for use by law enforcement during investigations and arrests. 
  • Name checks for firearm sales: Instantly determining whether prospective buyers are eligible to purchase guns or explosives. 
  • Identity history: Providing individuals with an Identity History Summary (often referred to as a criminal history record). 

Interesting Facts: Did You Know?

There are a variety of operations that take place within the three components of the FBI’s Science and Technology Branch—the Laboratory Division, the Operational Technology Division, and the Criminal Justice Information Services Division. 

  • The FBI manages the world’s largest repository of biometric-supported criminal histories, with over 72.6 million subject criminal history records. 
  • The FBI maintains a reference firearms collection which contains over 7,500 firearms.  
  • The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, created in 1929, provides crime data reported by more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies for use by those and other law enforcement agencies as well as policymakers, academia, and the public.    
  • The FBI began processing background checks for firearms purchases via National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in 1998, when a system was developed as a result of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.
  • The FBI partners with Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories across the country.  
  • The Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), established in 2003, investigates the improvised explosive device (IED) threat.   
  • The National Data Exchange (N-DEx) System provides access to millions of records from federal, state, local, and tribal criminal justice agencies.