Science and Technology Branch

Two Lab Technicians

The FBI is mobilizing a wide range of advanced scientific techniques and operational technologies to help counter terrorism and criminal threats. Overseeing the Bureau’s efforts in this area is our Science and Technology Branch (STB), established in July 2006 to centralize our various applied scientific and technological capabilities and functions.

The STB employs about 6,200 highly trained professionals with expertise in areas like biometrics, forensic science, and tactical operations. These experts support the FBI mission—along with the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities—by creating, adapting, and deploying state-of-the-art tools and techniques to collect, analyze, and share information and evidence.

Overview

Technology continues to play an increasingly prevalent role in daily life, and criminals and terrorists can use this trend to their advantage, posing an even bigger threat to civil liberty and national security. To combat this threat, former FBI Director Robert Mueller created the Science and Technology Branch (STB) and designated an executive assistant director to oversee and strategically deploy its world-renowned applied science and operational technology resources.

STB’s mission: Support the FBI mission by discovering, developing, and delivering innovative science and technology capabilities that enhance intelligence and investigative activities.

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

STB’s highly trained and specialized 6,200-employee workforce is made up of special agents, forensic scientists, engineers, intelligence analysts, and professional support personnel located at three Headquarters divisions and all field offices. They can be deployed worldwide at a moment’s notice. Our talented employees manage massive amounts of data, develop high-tech tools and techniques to solve crimes and prevent terrorist acts, and supply a broad array of scientific services and expertise to the law enforcement and intelligence communities.

Following are some examples of our capabilities in the areas of forensic science, information sharing, and operational technology.

Forensic Science

The criminal justice world has been shaped by forensic science, advancing crime investigations and allowing for the development of new technologies and capabilities. The FBI’s scientists, lab technicians, engineers, and forensic examiners support the criminal justice system by performing these key functions:

Biometrics analysis: Providing accurate, complete, and timely forensic analysis, including reporting, training, testimony, and technical support for latent print and DNA examinations.
Scientific analysis: Providing accurate, complete, and timely forensic analysis, including reporting, training, 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. Services include, but are not limited to:

  • Digital forensics: Collecting and examining digital evidence gathered from computers, audio files, video recordings, images, 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.
  • Electronic surveillance: Using technology and capabilities to covertly surveil, track, or locate targets of interest in operational matters.
  • Tactical operations: Deploying tools, systems, and equipment used in surreptitious entries and covert 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 successfully-resolved case. Bringing together material from various sources puts superior data access, analysis, and law enforcement community connectivity into the hands of special agents and law enforcement worldwide.

A few of the many 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 as well as iris, voice, and facial patterns.
  • Law Enforcement Online: Hosting a secure, web-based communications system, available 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.

The more than 6,200 highly-trained professionals of our Science and Technology Branch help protect the nation by putting the power of science and technology into the hands of law enforcement officers and intelligence professionals.

Interesting Facts: Did You Know?

There are a variety of operations that go on within the three components of the FBI’s Science and Technology Branch (STB)—the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, the Laboratory Division, and the Operational Technology Division. Here are some interesting facts on some of those operations:  

  • The National DNA Index contains over 9,875,100 offender profiles, 1,216,400 arrestee profiles, and 447,300 forensic profiles. As of August 2012, CODIS (Combined DNA Index System)—the software that runs criminal justice DNA databases—has produced over 187,700 hits assisting in more than 180,000 investigations. 
  • The FBI maintains more than 5,000 samples of human and animal hair in its training reference collection.
  • The Uniform Crime Reporting program, created in 1929, provides crime data (number of murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries, etc.) 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.
  • Between 400 and 600 pieces of chad (tiny bits of paper) are in one 8.5 x 11” sheet of shredded paper. Our document examiners piece shredded documents back together.
  • The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) averages nearly 8.8 million transactions a day, serving more than 92,000 users. NCIC set a single-day record on July 2, 2012, processing more than 12 million transactions.
  • STB manages the world’s largest repository of biometric-supported criminal histories, with 72.6 million subject criminal history records contained in the system.
  • During Fiscal Year 2015, the FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) examined 37,600 pieces of media totaling more than 9.77 petabytes (PB), or 9,770 terabytes (TB), of data while supporting more than 7,338 investigations.
  • Nearly 18 million background checks are conducted each year through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to determine purchase eligibility for firearms and explosives.
  • The Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (RCFL) program provides services to more than 5,000 agencies in 16 states. In Fiscal Year 2015, 684 agencies requested RCFL assistance on major cases.
  • The FBI maintains supercomputing resources with the ability to decrypt secure media in one day that would otherwise take 162 years to complete. Malicious software can be analyzed by the Bureau using automated systems within a matter of minutes.