Divided by a common language

Multiple Mobile Devices (Shutterstock)

Federal agencies have gotten better at buying and managing their wireless devices and services at least in part because they're beginning to speak the same language.

The General Services Administration's packages of wireless services, managed mobility and lifecycle management acquisition agreements have provided a common way for federal agencies to buy and manage a complex mix of devices and services, Jon Johnson, program manager for managed mobility integrated technology service at the agency's Federal Acquisition Service, said May 6 at a mobility management forum in Vienna, Va.

The ability to use common terms is the subtle key to more efficient use of mobile services and capabilities, said Michael Kennedy, PM-ISE executive for assured interoperability at the Office of the Director of National Security.

Interoperability depends on standards, he said, and a common set of terms and conditions for managed mobility services -- not to mention other kinds of IT services -- can go a long way in determining how successfully the federal government adapts and uses them, Kennedy said.

According to Gary Barlet, CIO at the U.S. Postal Service, terms used to set up and buy services can be completely different from agency to agency. Establishing a common vocabulary, he said, can be groundbreaking in getting agencies to understand what they're trying to accomplish, as well as what other agencies are doing in similar areas.

Barlet said he saw that first hand when he began working at the Post Office as CIO. The agency, he said, wasn't using the term "BYOD" in the sense most other agencies were.

"When I sat down to interview with them, they said they had 'BYOD,' then they handed me a mobile phone," he said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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