FBI CIO’s Mission: Modernize

When he joined the FBI from Lehman Brothers, Chad Fulgham inherited an obsolete IT infrastructure and major project on the brink of failure. Two years later, agents have BlackBerrys and SharePoint, but the work isn’t finished.

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Five years and $405 million into the FBI’s effort to create an all-digital case-management system for its special agents, it’s clear how far the Sentinel project has slid off the rails. According to the inspector general at the Department of Justice, many promised functions remain undelivered and defective code inhibits the use of some of the pieces of the system that are already in the FBI’s hands.

But FBI CIO Chad Fulgham insists Sentinel, which he inherited when he joined the bureau in December 2008, isn’t doomed—even though independent reviewers estimate it could take another eight years to complete, at an additional cost of $453 million. To save it, the former Lehman Brothers IT executive is battling what he calls “old guard” thinking and a federal bureaucracy that he says is “nuts.”

Sentinel is a big problem, but it’s just one of several Fulgham faced when he arrived. He was surprised to also find outdated technology, 200 open IT positions and a convoluted federal purchasing process.

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