Azmi defends plans for new system

FBI CIO Zalmai Azmi, in a letter to GCN, rebutted a Government Accountability Office critique of the Sentinel project, outlining a number of measures the FBI is taking to avoid mistakes in planning the project.

According to Azmi,the bureau seeks to bolster its IT staff and programs by forming partnerships with federal and private organizations to hire more IT experts, Azmi said. The bureau's new strategic human resources plan also will include professional development measures. He added that the FBI has filled four of the senior architect jobs that were vacant last August, and is carrying out background checks on a candidate for the fifth job.

The following are excerpts from Azmi's letter to GCN.

'The FBI appreciates and acknowledges agreement with many of the [Government Accountability Office's] recommendations to improve our IT capabilities.

'What must be borne in mind is that improvement in the development of our EA is an iterative process and, while we have made noteworthy achievements, no one expects overnight success. The same is true for attracting and retaining the best talent for our IT staff. Every government agency, consulting firm, and business in this town is competing for the same talent.

'We have achieved some significant accomplishments in this arena, but successfully undergoing an extremely rigorous FBI background investigation complete with polygraph examination has proven daunting for many of our applicants.

'The FBI recognizes that developing the Sentinel information management system simultaneously with the development of our EA introduces some risk to the project.

'However, in another GAO audit, the FBI was credited for achieving 16 of the 32 total elements recommended by the GAO's Enterprise Architecture Maturity Model Framework. This represents significant progress in the 19 months since the initiation of the FBI's EA program. Our EA is at the Capability Maturity Model Integration level 3 for all FBI mission areas. 'Sentinel will be the EA's first implementation, and will drive future application development projects to ensure interoperability across the FBI. Our EA is not as mature as we would like, but it is progressing and we do not intend to rest until it is finished.

'In deciding to go forward with Sentinel, the director was acutely aware of the bureau's urgent and compelling counterterrorism mission, and the absolute necessity to equip our [personnel] with a state-of-the-art system fully capable of storing, retrieving, exploiting and sharing critically needed intelligence information [inside and outside the bureau]. Time was not on our side. We needed to progress in both areas, but we needed to do it at the same time.

'To reduce the risks of developing Sentinel before having a fully developed and mature EA, the FBI is creating a transition and sequencing plan to bridge the gap between the baseline 'as-is' and target 'to-be' architectures.

'The T&S Plan will be the road map for the evolution of the FBI's business, and the information and technology that support it, to achieve the capabilities of the target EA. This T&S Plan will be shared with the winning Sentinel vendor, and is a required milestone for achieving the next GAO EAMMF level 4 rating. The plan will define the migration of legacy system interfaces and other enterprise systems to Sentinel.'

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