Chad Fulgham, a former technology executive at the now-defunct Lehman Brothers investment firm, has been hired by the FBI to fill its CIO position.

In an announcement, the agency described Fulgham as having extensive information security experience - one of several IT priorities that FBI Director Robert Mueller cited in a statement, along with giving end users the ability to quickly retrieve and share data and collaborate remotely. Mueller added that Fulgham's experience at multinational corporations is a good fit for the agency's IT needs.

Fulgham graduated from the US Naval Academy and spent five years working in IT jobs for the Navy. He then handled IT security and risk management functions at IBM, JPMorgan Chase and Arthur Andersen prior to becoming a senior vice president and head of the IT division at Lehman Brothers Holdings four years ago. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection in September and began selling off its assets, making it one of the highest-profile casualties of the economic downturn and Wall Street's collapse.

At the FBI, Fulgham will take the IT reins from Zalmai Azmi, who resigned in September and left the agency on 17 October after serving as its CIO since 2004.

The new CIO will take charge of an IT organisation that is in the midst of a significant overhaul of its technology infrastructure and processes, triggered largely by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Over the past few years, the agency has been equipping its agents with new technologies and more sophisticated tools for use in tracking down terrorists and other criminals.

For instance, the FBI said in its announcement of Azmi's resignation that the agency has distributed more than 20,000 BlackBerry devices to field agents as part of an effort to provide them with mobile access to criminal details and vehicle records. It also re-engineered, streamlined or automated more than 200 internal work processes under Azmi's watch.

In addition, the FBI has tied together much of its old case data into a single database called the Investigative Data Warehouse. And new tools have been implemented to give agents centralised access to information across dozens of previously compartmentalised databases and networks, such as the Department of Defense classified Secret IP Router Network.

Altogether, Fulgham will inhert about 54 ongoing IT projects, according to the FBI. One of the biggest is the agency's Sentinel system, which is designed to provide web-based access to case management data. The first portion of the four-phase project was completed in June 2007, and the FBI said in September that Sentinel -- which will cost an estimated $423 million -- is on schedule for a full rollout by mid-2010.

The Sentinel plans were detailed in 2005, shortly after the FBI scrapped a similar project for a Virtual Case File system, on which it had spent more than $100 million, because of various technical problems. The agency officially launched the Sentinel initiative in early 2006, signing on Lockheed Martin as the lead contractor.

Gartner analyst John Pescatore, who advised the FBI several years ago on the need to bring in a private-sector CIO to lead its IT organisation, said that he thinks Fulgham's corporate background will be a plus for the agency.

The biggest problem at the FBI from a technology standpoint, according to Pescatore, is the fact that it has multiple IT units with their own systems and development funding, and no real top-down control. "The way the government procures IT and deals with personnel is so convoluted that change is slow, if not impossible," Pescatore said. As a result, he added, what the agency needs is an IT leader with merger and acquisition experience to pull together its technology operations.

Fulgham's Lehman background should help in that regard, Pescatore said. But, he cautioned, a big question is whether Mueller will give the new CIO the authority he needs to make the required internal changes. "That part I don't yet have confidence in," Pescatore said.

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