management advised the NRC that there had been substantial progress on a number of the issues outlined in the report since FBI management and staff had last briefed the committee, and requested that the committee review this new information.
As a result, on May 20, 2004, the committee convened for an update briefing conducted by FBI Chief Information Officer (CIO) Zalmai Azmi, Executive Assistant Director Wilson Lowery, and Sherry Higgins, the Assistant Director for FBI Program Management. The briefing dealt with items that were included in the five areas of concern identified in the original report: (1) the transition from the Automated Case Support system to the Virtual Case File, (2) enterprise architecture, (3) system design, (4) program and contract management, and (5) human resources. This letter report summarizes the May 20 briefing and presents the committee’s commentary on it.
The next five sections describe and comment on what was covered in the May 20 briefing relative to the five areas of focus of the original report.
In its original report, the committee recommended that the FBI refrain from undertaking a “flash cutover” conversion from the Automated Case Support (ACS) system to the Virtual Case File (VCF), and that a validated contingency plan for capability to revert partially or completely to ACS be put into place before any major transition proceeds. Mr. Azmi, the CIO, told the committee on May 20 that he concurs with this view and that he is in the process of developing alternatives to the flash cutover conversion.
Observations and comments: The report that the FBI is developing alternatives to a flash cutover is consistent with the committee’s recommendations. Planning for such an alternative also underscores the importance of a backup capability if the VCF is to be deployed without substantial operationally testing. The committee recognizes that backup capabilities will necessitate some additional cost, but considers the cost a good investment relative to the possible catastrophic consequences should an inadequately tested VCF fail during initial operational use. The committee further notes that if the ACS system does not remain available for use throughout the VCF phase-in period including an incremental phase-in of VCF functions, then the VCF implementation is effectively a flash cutover.
In its original report, the committee noted that the success of the FBI's information technology efforts will require the development of a close linkage between IT and a coherent view of the bureau's mission and operational needs. The committee warned that the development of this strategic linkage—the enterprise architecture—cannot be delegated inside the bureau to the CIO or outside to contractors, and that only the senior leadership of the FBI can establish the policies, define the operational frameworks and priorities, and make the tradeoffs that are necessary to formulate this strategic view.
Against this backdrop, the committee urged the FBI to create an enterprise architecture (EA) as a matter of the highest priority, and that top FBI operational management be substantively engaged in the process of creating the EA. In the May 20 briefing, Mr. Azmi stated his personal commitment to the creation of the EA as a matter of high priority. In an important step toward obtaining authoritative operational input, he reported that he is reconstituting the Enterprise Architecture Board to include senior representatives of 11 operational divisions of the FBI. In addition, he reported that he intends to require signoff on the EA by the bureau’s executive assistant directors and division assistant directors. Finally, Mr. Azmi stated that he has engaged contractor assistance in the creation of the EA and that the contract includes specific