Inside the FBI’s IT Transformation

During the past year, the FBI has also proceeded with a large-scale installation of WAN accelerators. This technology is designed to provide optimal performance between a central site like a field office and a branch office. The WAN Accelerators provide performance enhancement by streamlining application protocols, reducing bandwidth requirements through caching and compression, and offloading functions from network servers. The accelerators are installed at each end of the link between the field office and resident agency. WAN Accelerators allow for greatly improved response time, at a reasonable cost, and the installation is transparent to the users, network servers, and equipment.

According to Azmi, the WAN Accelerator project is delivering the following benefits for the FBI:

  • Improved work experience for users, by reducing login and logout times, and reducing response time when working with documents permitting increased productivity for FBI personnel.
  • Circuits to branch office sites can be “right-sized” permitting bandwidth reductions that result in reduced monthly recurring costs.
  • Reduction of labor costs associated with performance issues, i.e., fewer trouble tickets.
  • These massive changes have been neither easy nor cheap. Despite common misconception, the government does not issue blank checks, not even to the FBI.

    “One of the more difficult aspects of the struggling economy has been that our budget and personnel resources have not increased commensurate with our important responsibilities,” bemoans Azmi. As a result, he and his team have worked towards maximizing efficiencies, through activities such as business process reengineering, prioritization of initiatives, and increased collaboration with intelligence and law enforcement partners.

    When he reflects over the changes in the FBI’s IT department over the past five years, he finds two areas most striking: “On an individual level the proliferation of handheld devices and wireless technologies have dominated and have changed users perception of the technology forever,” he said. “On an enterprise level, over the last few years, the FBI determined that it needed a service oriented architecture (SOA) to guide the modernization of its IT systems.”

    When he looks forward to the changes likely to come over the next five years, he sees all things mobile and remote. “Mobile IT tools allow FBI personnel to perform the collection, analysis, and dissemination of valuable intelligence information, and will be an indispensable technology for years to come,” he predicts.

    Azmi also sees the use of Web 2.0 as a key part of the FBI’s ongoing transformation to improve human capital performance by facilitating information sharing and collaboration. He said it will increase the volume and quality of raw and finished intelligence, the sharing of best practices, mentoring, and strengthen the role of knowledge in informing and driving operations.

    “The use of Web 2.0 could significantly alter the analytical, information sharing, administrative and knowledge transfer landscape of FBI business practices. These would focus on helping employees collaborate, exchange knowledge, find organizational resources, search for experts and corporate information, leverage business insights and existing tools and investments to make better-informed intelligence and knowledge sharing decisions,” he explains.

    Increasing the availability and sharing of explicit and tacit knowledge assets can have a significant ROI. Reducing the time spent by as little as 10 minutes a day with increased search efficiency and information availability could yield efficiency in labor costs to the organization resulting in tangible benefits.

    Although he didn’t mention the “Grid”, the technology billed to replace the Web arising from the Internet’s hometown of Cern, Switzerland this summer, the moves toward SOA and Web 2.0 may be indicative of an eventual move beyond the land of routers, WAN optimizers, bandwidth concerns and even desktop storage issues.

    In any case, the Intelligence business has become infinitely more sophisticated and well, intelligent. And Azmi, like many of his peers, is proving to be the brainpower behind serious paradigm shifts in large organizations.