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The Federal Bureau of Investigation of the U. government, the FBI, was forced to scrap its $170 million virtual case le (VCF) management system.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation of the U.S. government, the FBI, was forced to scrap its $170 million virtual case le (VCF) management system. Official reports blamed numerous delays, cost overruns, and incompatible software. But a deeper examination of the cause of this failure uncovered issues of control, culture, and incompatible organizational systems.

Among its many duties, the FBI is charged with the responsibility to fight crime and terrorism. To do so requires a large number of agents located within the United States and around the world. That means agents must be able to share information among themselves within the bureau and with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. But sharing information has never been standard operating procedure for this agency. According to one source, "agents are accustomed to holding information close to their bulletproof vests and scorn the idea of sharing information." This turned out to be a real problem in an investigation of DarkMarket, an Internet forum that connected buyers and sellers so that they could exchange stolen information such as bank details and credit card numbers. When both the FBI and Secret Service agents were investigating each other as criminals, it took their British colleagues, who knew the secrets of both agencies, to avert a crisis.

Enter the FBI's efforts to modernize its infrastructure, codenamed "Trilogy." The efforts included providing agents with 30,000 desktop PCs, high?bandwidth networks to connect FBI locations around the world, and the VCF project to facilitate sharing of case information worldwide. The FBI Director explained to Congress that VCF would provide "an electronic means for agents to globally send field notes, documents, pieces of intelligence and other evidence so they could hopefully act faster on leads." It was designed to replace a paper?intensive process with an electronic, Web?based process. With such a reasonable goal, why didn't it work?

The CIO of the FBI offered one explanation. He claimed that the FBI needed to change its culture. "If the Bureau is ever going to get the high?tech analysis and surveillance tools it needs to. . . fight terrorism, we must move from a decentralized amalgam of 56 field offices. . . to a seamlessly integrated global intelligence operation capable of sharing information and preventing crimes in real?time." He added that the Bureau personnel were also very distrustful of the technology, as well as others not only in other organizations but also within the FBI.

A former project manager at the FBI further explained, "They work under the idea that everything needs to be kept secret. But everything doesn't have to be kept secret. To be correct, you have to share information."

The VCF system has been shut down, but the CIO is working on a new approach. He is busy trying to win buy?in from agents in the field so that the next case management system will work. In addition, he is working to establish a portfolio management plan that will cover all of the FBI's IT projects, even those begun in decentralized offices. His team has been designing an enterprise architecture that will lay out standards for a bureauwide information system. The Director of the FBI has helped too. He reorganized the governance of IT, taking its budget control away from the districts and giving total IT budget authority to the CIO.

The FBI is building a new case management system called Sentinel in four phases. The rst two phases have been deployed and, according to the Federal IT dashboard, the project is on schedule and on budget. The new system, according to the CIO, will include workflow, document management, record management, audit trails, access control, and single sign?on. It will provide enhanced information sharing, search, and analysis capabilities to FBI agents and facilitate information sharing with members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities. To manage the expectations of the agents, the CIO plans to communicate often and significantly increase the training program for the new system. The CIO commented, "We want to automate those things that are the most manually cumbersome for the agents so they can see that technology can actually enhance their productivity. That is how to change their attitudes."

The FBI also has a billion?dollar Next Generation Identification (NGI) system with 52 million searchable facial images and 100 million individual fingerprint records as well as millions of palm prints, DNA samples, and iris scans. NGI can scan mug shots for a match and pick out suspects from a crowd scanned by a security camera or in a photograph on the Internet. The information can be exchanged with 18,000 law enforcement agencies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.33 When combined with Sentinel, NGI will further enhance the effectiveness of the FBI's antiterror efforts.


1. What advice would you give the CIO to successfully implement and use the new system? How should he approach modernizing and making better use of information technology (IT) and factors other than IT? Use appropriate models or frameworks to support your position.

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