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FBI stays inside for new CIO

Correction: Gordon Bitko was named  only the CIO of the FBI and not the executive assistant director for the Information and Technology Branch  as Federal News Radio previously reported. We regret the error.

The FBI turned to a familiar face for its new chief information officer.

Sources say Gordon Bitko, RAND Corporation scholar and author, and an employee since 2007, has been chosen by Director James Comey to replace Jerry Pender, who left the FBI in August. Bitko will be the CIO  but not the executive assistant director for the Information and Technology Branch.

Comey named James Turgal in February to be the executive assistant director for the Information and Technology Branch.

In an email to staff, which Federal News Radio obtained, Comey said he chose Bitko “because he thinks well about technology, knows up close the great and less than great ways we use technology today and has proven that he can get hard things done.”

James Comey
FBI Director James Comey

Brian Truchon has been the acting executive assistant director and CIO for the Information and Technology Branch since August.

A FBI spokesman confirmed Bitko’s hiring on April 15.

Comey’s decision to hire Bitko means the FBI has started to permanently fill the holes in its technology leadership. Along with Pender, Deputy CIO Dean Hall left in the fall.

Bitko has been with the FBI for the last 8-plus years, leading the Support Services Transformation Office since 2015. He also spent seven years as a supervisor and section chief in Resource Planning Office of the bureau.

The FBI posted a job opening for its CIO in January.

Bitko joins the FBI in a time of transition. Over the past few years, the FBI has been implementing new technology, and emerged as a leader using agile or iterative development. It found a great deal of success with that approach in turning around its Sentinel case management system. Last year, it successfully delivered on a $1.1 billion biometrics program and has been deploying better mobile devices to the field.

The FBI’s fiscal 2017 budget requests gives some insight into the CIO’s upcoming priorities and challenges.

Comey told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies back in February that the role of technology to combat terrorist threats is increasingly important.

“We are using technology to improve the way we collect, analyze and share information. We have seen significant improvement in capabilities and capacities over the past decade; but keeping pace with technology remains a key concern for the future,” he testified.

To that end, the Justice Department is requesting $85.1 million for the FBI to enhance cyber investigative capabilities, $19.9 million to mitigate threats from foreign intelligence services and insider threats, $38.3 million for operational technology investments related to the Going Dark initiative, $27 million to leverage Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise components and services within the FBI, $8.2 million to enhance surveillance capabilities, $35 million to improve the timeliness and accuracy of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) services, and $7.4 million for operation and maintenance costs of the new Biometrics Technology Center.

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“The FBI is also actively participating in the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) initiative,” Comey said. “The ICITE initiative provides value to the FBI by enabling our agents and analysts to share and leverage data, information, applications and tools with the Intelligence Community in a common environment which facilitates real-time communication and collaboration. In addition, the FBI is developing efficient and effective processes for migrating certain data sets and applications to the Intelligence Community cloud in accordance with Department of Justice and Intelligence Community statutes and policies.”

The FBI also will ask the CIO to bring special agents and intelligence analysts the best technological tools available to respond to the advanced and evolving threats.

“Enterprise information technology must be designed so that it provides information to operational employees rather than forcing employees to conform to the tools available,” Comey said. “IT equipment must be reliable and accessible, thus decreasing the time between information collection and dissemination.”

He added the FBI also is building a workforce with the necessary skillsets to deal with complex and growing threats, and a leadership team that is focused on evolving the bureau to deal with the ever-changing challenges.

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