FBI prioritizes security, records

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: Reforming FBI Management: The Viewsfrom Inside and Out

Security and creating a document management system are the top technology priorities at the FBI, trumping the bureau's plan to modernize its antiquated information technology infrastructure, the bureau's information technology chief told a Senate committee July 18.

The priorities are closely tied to two of the bureau's biggest recent embarrassments—the arrest of veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who served as a spy for Russia for more than 15 years, and the loss of thousands of documents in connection with the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"Our IT infrastructure is in need of repair, and our approach to IT planning and funding has been less than adequate," said Bob Dies, assistant director for the FBI's information resources division. Trilogy, the FBI's three-year plan to modernize its antiquated infrastructure, is designed to begin to deal with these issues, he said.

But recent events "indicate a need to quickly go beyond Trilogy's infrastructure plan to incorporate state-of-the-art IT security process and a world-class records management system," he said. "Those would be our first two priorities. We can then turn our attention to modernizing and integrating the bureau's remaining investigative, administrative and financial systems."

Those efforts likely will require additional funding, he said. The FBI's fiscal 2003 request is moving through the budget process at the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget, Dies told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Dies did not say if the efforts would delay Trilogy's rollout. Earlier this year, the FBI selected DynCorp and Science Applications International Corp. as the Trilogy contractors. About $100 million has been collected for the program from previous funding approvals, and the Bush administration has requested a $75 million increase for the program—to $95 million — for fiscal 2002.

The committee's hearing comes just a day after the latest flap involving the FBI. The Justice Department acknowledged July 17 that hundreds of laptop computers and weapons were lost, missing or stolen.

"There are some very serious management problems at the FBI," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee's chairman.

Internal security is a paramount concern, Dies said. The issue is broader than information technology, he acknowledged, but it involves IT.

In March 2000, nearly a year before Hanssen was arrested, then-FBI Director Louis Freeh created a task force to review FBI policies and procedures, said Kenneth Senser, FBI's acting deputy assistant director for security programs and countermeasures.

The task force recommended that the FBI create clear lines of accountability for security. That has been done with the appointment of Senser, a career security executive from the CIA who oversees the FBI's security program, Dies said.

In May 2000, the FBI created the FBI Security Council to coordinate the bureau's security initiatives, which Senser said often were ineffective and poorly coordinated. The committee also recommended that the FBI tighten its security policy systems and invest in security training and education.

The FBI also is working with a team led by William Webster, former director of the FBI and CIA, that is investigating ways to improve internal security at the bureau.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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