DOD negotiating the way forward for mobility

soldiers using mobile device

The Defense Department's push for more mobility continues, most recently – and most notably – with the June 27 award of a $16 million contract to manage mobile devices and a mobile application store within the Defense Information Systems Agency. Now, military components across the military are trying to figure out exactly what comes next.

Plans already in motion are set to continue now that the contract award solidifies what DISA described as a "digital ecosystem that will operate and assure the mobile devices that connect with DOD networks." That includes the next phases of about 70 different mobile pilots under way throughout the Pentagon, including steps forward that will take the pilots and the devices they have been testing out into more permanent and official deployment.

Currently, DOD has about 600,000 mobile devices in use. According to DOD Deputy CIO Rob Carey, that number is set to grow significantly by fiscal 2014 as DISA's provisioning accelerates.

"We're rolling out devices now," Carey said July 16 at an industry event in Washington. "I'd like to see the number grow faster, only because the demand signal is large. We're trying to make sure every single device in the department goes through our infrastructure with DISA so that we can command and control the security of the apparatus – that's really important for us."

DISA officials so far have declined to comment on details of the contract award and the mobility push it will serve, but the implementation of a mobile device management program and accompanying mobile application store are key parts of the agency's mobility implementation plan, introduced earlier this year.

"We're not looking for perfect solutions; we're taking the best that industry has today and we're using that and then looking for what's coming next," John Hickey, program manager for DOD mobility at DISA, said at May's FOSE conference. "We can't just say no anymore. We can't just give people a device that's so locked down you can't do anything with. How do we make a policy that enables that?"

Policies and guidelines are playing a central role in the mobile moves DOD officials will be making in the coming days and months to establish effective mobile security standards and try to get ahead of the technological curve.

"The mobile world is moving like an Acela train. The land we're playing on with general policies and hard because by the time we get it written down, something has changed," Carey said. "There will be something else we'll want or something else we'll need to take advantage of. So we need to find the right spot to plunk down the standards and policies and then more importantly, educate the workforce on what that's supposed to do."

Carey added that those efforts are not limited to DOD; the goal is to collaborate across the government in order to achieve a uniform, governmentwide security standard. Eventually, that likely will include bring-your-own-device policies across government agencies, he noted.

"At the end of the day we're trying to roll forward in a secure manner – and we believe this is a standard. We're working with [the National Institute of Standards and Technology] and Commerce [Department] and some set a bar" for sharing information and instituting mobility, Carey said.

And that multi-agency cooperation, in turn, is not limited to just policies and guidelines. At the same event, Keith Trippie, executive director for DHS' Enterprise System Development Office, said his agency is pushing forward with what he described as a one-stop-shop for government organizations to vet their applications throughout their lifecycle.

"With this you can run it through the car wash and spit it out the other side clean," Trippie said. "The nice thing about this capability is that it will quickly let you know if there are vulnerabilities [in your app] and you can [fix it], bring it back in, run it through the car wash and then republish. We are building it as an agnostic platform."

The "as a service" capability is set for October production, Trippie said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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