- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

The FBI has gone outside its ranks to find someone to oversee the bureau's burgeoning computer and communications system.

Bob E. Dies, a former IBM executive, will shepherd the design, development and deployment of EFBI, a new electronics-based information system.

Mr. Dies, the recently retired general manager of IBM's network and personal-computer division, has been named assistant director of the FBI's Information Resources Division. He will oversee the maintenance, upgrading and development of the bureau's information and communications systems, computer networks and records.

"Bob Dies is the right man at the right time for perhaps the toughest job in the FBI today," said FBI Director Louis J. Freeh. "We are extraordinarily fortunate to gain Bob's expertise, leadership and vision at a time in our history when we must modernize our own information systems at the same time we are responding to crimes committed on and with rapidly developing technologies."

Mr. Dies, 54, served in executive positions at IBM for 20 of his 30 years at the computer giant, including assignments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. His immediate concern at the bureau will be the creation of EFBI a massive electronic record-keeping, information-sharing and analytical support system the FBI believes is "necessary" in its fight against new-age criminals.

"Louie Freeh made me an offer I couldn't refuse," said Mr. Dies during an interview this week in his office at FBI headquarters in Washington. In explaining how he was enticed to leave retirement and his new waterfront home in Westport, Conn., to take on a new assignment, he said, "Louie is a difficult man to turn down."

Mr. Dies said the assignment is simple: Assess where the FBI is with regard to its current computer technology, find out what it will take to solve the problems that are identified, determine how much it will cost, and get it done.

"There is no question that they need help, that is clear," he said, explaining that the FBI has spent a considerable amount to put together computer systems to support local and state police agencies nationwide while spending "surpassingly little on ourselves."

"I would say the problems that need to be solved as 'medium hard,' but not insurmountable," he said.

Mr. Dies' update of the FBI's computer network is aimed primarily at providing the newest technology as soon as possible to the bureau's field agents, not at headquarters. He said a primary goal is a user-friendly system aimed at networking all the bureau's offices, to ensure that field agents have the best available equipment to facilitate their investigative efforts and to ensure their safety.

To get the job done, however, he has had to adjust his thinking remembering that he is now dealing in a "new culture" known as government, one that involves what he described as "paper and documents, procurement guidelines and the ever-familiar refrain: 'We've always done it this way.' "

"I've got to make them understand that a new system can take months and not years and that like the corporate world, you either fix it or you kill it," he said. "More importantly, I will need to impress upon them that I am an impatient man."

Since he joined the FBI two months ago, Mr. Dies with the help of Assistant Director John E. Collingwood, head of the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs has worked closely with Congress to develop the automation support necessary for an effective approach to counterterrorism, counterespionage and investigations involving cyber-crime and child pornography.

"Members of Congress have met with Mr. Dies and they have confidence in him," Mr. Collingwood said. "He brings to the mission a long track record of success in the private sector and years of experience and expertise in delivering similar products."

Mr. Dies, co-author of a strategy paper on organizational efficiency that led to IBM's worldwide change from a geographic management system to an industry-specialized organization, is not the first outsider top FBI management has sought for a key bureau position.

In 1997, Donald M. Kerr Jr., a physicist-engineer who headed the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico from 1979 to 1985, was named director of the FBI laboratory.

But the newest member of the FBI management team the son of an Oklahoma oil-field worker has no plans to stay with the bureau forever. He said he told Mr. Freeh that he was not interested in building a system that would take five to seven years to complete, since programs continually are changing, and that he had no intention of being at the FBI in 10 years.

"I hope to get a system in place as soon as possible to get the agents from where they are now to where they could be," he said. "There is a sense of urgency regarding this within the bureau, and I hope to use that to our advantage."

Mr. Dies, who began his career with IBM in 1969 and was named a corporate vice president in 1990, said it will be easy to judge whether he is successful.

"The agents in the field will tell me if we are successful. They will say they can get their jobs done today in a way they couldn't do it before, that they are more efficient, more effective, more capable and safer," he said. "If I've been successful, no one will have to wonder what they could do if they had the right tools."

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