FBI pins down records management
- By Wilson P. Dizard III
- Feb 04, 2003
'We need to figure out how to manage our case files effectively. Understand, we have no real'in my opinion'records management system at the bureau.'
'William L. Hooton
In response to criticism of the FBI's management of evidence, the bureau has launched a massive records management project to overhaul the way millions of paper records are handled at headquarters, at 56 field offices, and by legal attaches around the world.
William L. Hooton, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Records Management Division, described the Records Management Application at a recent meeting of the National Capital Chapter of the Association for Information and Image Management in Arlington, Va.
Hooton acknowledged criticism that the Justice Department's inspector general leveled at the FBI in the wake of the troubled prosecution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. As part of the reforms resulting from Senate hearings about the IG report, the bureau pledged to get help from outside experts such as Hooton to manage its records.
Before joining the FBI, Hooton held senior positions at the IRS and the National Archives and Records Administration, where he served as chairman of the Digital Imaging Activities Group.
He also held executive positions at Tower Software Inc. of Reston, Va., and Science Applications International Corp.
In the past, the bureau often has appointed FBI special agents to senior IT positions.
'We don't know what we have, and we don't know what we don't have,' Hooton said.
He echoed the statements of Senate Judiciary Committee members who had given a forum for Justice IG Glenn A. Fine to describe flaws riddling the department's IT infrastructure.
The bureau now has consolidated almost 1,000 employees into the Records Management Division, bringing together staff from 22 separate organizations to form the largest division in the headquarters building, Hooton said.
'We need to figure out how to manage our case files effectively,' Hooton said. 'Understand, we have no real'in my opinion'records management system at the bureau.'
The enterprise records management system forms part of an enterprise architecture that the FBI is creating under the direction of CIO Darwin A. John and the CIO's planning office, led by chief technology officer Justin Lindsey.
The FBI plans to conduct an inventory of its records and separate them into three groups: records to be destroyed, records that haven't been requested in the last five years but must be kept, and records that have been requested in the last five years,. Only the most recently requested records will be held in the records management system.Quick and dirty
FBI records enter the system at a facility called the DocLab, where production is ramping up to process 750,000 documents per day.
The DocLab uses a 'dirty' optical character reader process, as opposed to a corrected OCR process, to speed up operations, Hooton said. 'We just don't have the time right now to do very high-quality OCR,' he said.
Hooton said he expects that as the project progresses, the division will convert some of DocLab's 10 production lines to higher-quality scanning.
The production lines each have about six or seven workers, Hooton said.
DocLab uses I820 high-speed scanners from Eastman Kodak Co. of Rochester, N.Y., as well as the company's I60 platen scanner and a 359EC rescanner.
All the equipment scans in color, Hooton said. The workers index the documents and check them to make sure they meet standards for quality.Scanning is panning
The scanned records eventually will build up databases to which the bureau can apply data mining techniques, Hooton said.
The division also carries out all the Freedom of Information Act request processing for the bureau. Hooton said the staff devoted to that task has been cut sfrom 544 down to about 120, by re-engineering the FOIA process and eliminating duplication of effort.
In addition, the division operates a call center that responds to requests for records, Hooton said.
One of the division's major problems 'is the conundrum of information sharing,' Hooton said.
'On the one hand you must share the information, and on the other hand you must not share the information, for security reasons.'
Hooton said it is a daunting dilemma, but the bureau is devoting 'an awful lot of horsepower to come up with a good plan [for information sharing] that will work on both of these important things.'
As for the future of the records management system, Hooton said, 'This is going to be a never-ending type of thing. Not only do we have our existing records but we have new stuff.'