The bureau is making progress. CIO Zalmai Azmi has been in place since December 2003. Unlike his predecessors, he has control over the FBI's entire technology budget and direct access to FBI chief Robert Mueller. Azmi recently signed a $425 million deal with Lockheed Martin to develop Sentinel, the software the Virtual Case File never grew to be. The company has four years to deliver, not 22 months. The software will rely on commercial components, like Oracle databases, and it will be rolled out in increments rather than a single chunk.
For agents in the field today, these changes still seem like they're a long way off. In New York, only about 100 agents out of 2,000 have BlackBerries—the e-mail-capable phones carried by seemingly every traveling salesman, congressional staffer, and mid-level executive on the East Coast. Headquarters nearly cut off the 100 BlackBerry owners until an assistant director "raised a stink" and saved his G-men from being disconnected. Score one for progress.