CCE Theses and Dissertations

A Systems Analysis of Information Technology and the Use of WLANs Implemented by an FBI Field Office for Crisis Response Incidents: The Columbia Field Office Case Study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Sumitra Mukherjee


A comprehensive crisis management system must be ready to operate on a moment's notice and in the midst of an onslaught of information. Within the crisis incident, the management of information may be characterized by magnitude and urgency as well as by preciseness and uncertain reliability. Described as rapidly changing, high risk, and non-routine, crisis incidents challenge the mandates of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to protect and to share information. Complicating the development of a crisis system are security constraints imposed on the information technology (IT) infrastructure by crisis participants such as the FBI. Constraints circumvent collaborative initiatives fundamental to crisis response efforts. For example, mandates to secure information may inhibit access to critical, real-time, decision-making data and thereby result in additional danger and damage due to limitations placed on analytical processes affecting recovery efforts.

The author addressed the aforementioned issues confronting an FBI field office (FO) during a crisis response effort. A single-case study analyzing the implementation of IT by the Columbia FO during a crisis incident was conducted. Results of this study indicated that IT used by the Columbia FO during a crisis incident had a positive impact on FBI crisis response operations. The results further indicated that strict IT security controls placed upon FBI systems effect how technologies such as wireless local area networks (WLANs) are implemented to support the investigative processes during a crisis incident.

The outcomes from this research showed an increase in information exchange capability through the use of WLANs. Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a rural field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 , the FBI has been undergoing a transformation from an investigative agency to an investigative and intelligence agency. These changes include the use of IT for meeting the renewed emphasis on information exchange. The major contribution of this study is that it provides a comprehensive analysis of IT used by an FBI FO and the potential of WLAN technology in support of crisis responders. This study also provides recommendations on how a WLAN pilot project could be initiated within a FO crisis response.

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