Editor's Note: The FBI Must Get It Right - InformationWeek

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John Foley
John Foley
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Editor's Note: The FBI Must Get It Right

It's probably not unusual for a newly hired CIO to walk into his or her office in the first days of a job, stroll through the data center, sit down with the department's software developers and IT technicians, look at the to-do list, and come to the realization: "What the heck have I gotten myself into?!"

We can only imagine the thoughts running through Zalmai Azmi's head as he sized up the IT challenges facing the FBI after he was named CIO last year. In the critical period since Sept. 11, 2001, the bureau went through the motions of creating an IT infrastructure that could support a need for sharing information faster in the face of new dangers. But a critical upgrade for managing case files sputtered and strategic planning lacked continuity as four CIOs went through the agency's revolving doors one after the other.

When InformationWeek senior editor Larry Greenemeier arrived at the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington to interview Azmi, he found the FBI's top technologist--who came to the United States from Afghanistan in 1982 and served in the U.S. Marine Corps--prepared with handwritten notes. Azmi was eager to talk about the coordinated IT strategy he has now put in place. It appears he has the influence to make it work, with a mandate that includes broader budget control and a role in reengineering the bureau's business processes.

The FBI is moving forward, though not very fast. Its flagship Sentinel system hasn't yet begun and will take four years to roll out. But getting it right this time is what counts most. As our cover headline ("Deadly Serious") suggests, there's little margin for error.

John Foley
[email protected]

Editor-In-Chief Stephanie Stahl will return next week.

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