WASHINGTON--The FBI's chief information officer announced his resignation Wednesday, nearly five years after inheriting an information technology program fraught with disaster and dramatically turning it around.
"In 2004, everyone was asking when the FBI would join the 21st century," said CIO Zalmai Azmi. "Today I can tell you that we are in the 21st century and continue to move forward."
When Azmi joined the FBI as the acting CIO, the bureau was scheduled to roll out Virtual Case File, a software program meant to replace its archaic, paper-based criminal tracking system. Instead, the system was scrapped--and Azmi got to break the news to FBI Director Robert Mueller that the $170 million system, designed by Science Applications International, was unsalvageable.
Officially named the CIO in 2004, Azmi has since been working to build the bureau's IT branch and build confidence both within the agency and on Capitol Hill, where he meets with lawmakers twice a week.
The biggest challenge for his successor, Azmi said, "will be maintaining those relationships. More than anything, it's about the transparency we've brought."
Azmi's last official day will be October 17, and he said his successor will likely be named a few weeks after that. From a large pool of applicants from the public and private sectors, the bureau has narrowed its choices to candidates from the private sector.
The FBI's IT branch currently has 54 IT projects in development and plans to complete 20 by the end of the calendar year. It's already deployed the first phase of Sentinel, the program developed to replace VCF, and the rest of the project is on schedule and on budget, Azmi said. Sentinel is expected to be completed and fully deployed by 2012.
The FBI has been slow with providing its employees with desktop Internet access, since its closed network infrastructure was its first priority, but now more than 20,000 BlackBerrys have been deployed to its agents, analysts, and task force officers.
"We should be measured not where some think we should be, but on where we have come from and what we have accomplished," Azmi said.
After 24 years working for the federal government, Azmi said he is resigning to spend more time with his family.