VA to open network to popular mobile devices

VA CIO Roger Baker says new policy will cover most popular devices such as iPhone, iPad and Android

The Veterans Affairs Department expects to enable employees to use iPhones, iPads, Androids and other popular mobile devices on the departmental network by Oct. 1, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker has announced.

"Our date is Oct. 1 to allow these types of devices to be used inside VA,” Baker said in a conference call on June 30. An audio record of the call was made available by

Details of how the mobile devices would be connected, secured and used on the VA networks and whether the department would help buy the devices for employees are still being worked out, said Baker, who also is assistant secretary for information and technology.

The VA is considering two approaches on connectivity, Baker said. In the first approach, the employee mobile device would access network applications such as data on its VistA electronic health record system in a “read only” mode. The mobile device would serve as a thin client that would not download or store any VA information.

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In the second approach, the mobile device would be able to download and store limited information, but only if the information is strongly encrypted, Baker said.

The department also is considering a variety of approaches on how employees may acquire the mobile devices.

One idea is to allow VA employees to bring in personal mobile devices that they own. “If you want to bring it in, we can monitor it, and we can give you access from your personal device,” Baker said.

The monitoring is likely to include reviewing the device and its applications before allowing connectivity with VA networks and installing security and encryption applications on the device. If the personal device were lost, it would be wiped clean of the VA information.

VA also is considering is a mobile device procurement, Baker said. But such a procurement could take months to enact, while mobile devices are regularly updated

Regarding policy, Baker said there are policies in place for use of Blackberries, and also for a pilot program allowing other mobile devices. By Oct. 1, he expects to have a general mobile device policy in place by the VA to support using a variety of “the most popular devices” — likely to include iPhone, iPad and Android — to be used in the department’s facilities and networks.

Earlier this year, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra floated the idea that the federal government could give employees $2,000 to acquire their own mobile devices to be used on agency networks.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jul 12, 2011

all this talk about "critical" data. . . we're not protecting government secrets here... your SSN is more at risk when you bank online that it is at the VA!

Thu, Jul 7, 2011

Gee, It's great to hear we have a "gadgit boy" in charge over there who is willing to gamble with our private information instead of a Professional which all of the Private Industries waste their time hireing...

Thu, Jul 7, 2011

These idiots have already proven they can't keep my personal information safe now! So they think it is a good idea to now make it available to more devices? This is really embarassing for our Government and citizens.XOXOXO, just an old Viet Nam Vet who had his personal information stolen from the V.A.

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 West Coast User San Francisco, CA

Well to be perfectly frank, this seems unlikely to me. Why would employees want restrictions placed on their own devices? Who knows how these restrictions would affect the way they use their own personal devices? And would this usage be in place of standard issue devices such as blackberries and laptops which are now regularly issued to remote users? Also the statement:
"Earlier this year, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra floated the idea that the federal government could give employees $2,000 to acquire their own mobile devices to be used on agency networks." sounds somewhat exaggerated - these devices do not cost that much in the first place, and in times of wage freezes, it is not likely that money will be issued in my opinion. Of course even consideration of the addition of the Apple family of technology to the VA communciation arsenal is a step in the right direction.

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 Jonattan Melbourne, FL

That is ridiculous to allow a personal device to gain access to such a critical data. People with all sorts of "apps" installed on their smartphones and no idea what pricate information is taken from them is one thing, but allowing now medical informatin on veterans records from their own device?? that's another story. I think it is reckless, but I am sure other private companies allow this and more and they just don't tell or don't come forward. On the next company breach they will just say something like this: 'no personal information was affected' Yes there are bandwidth and security concerns regular people that don't understand technology can seem to grasp. I just sat down to eat here at the mall, while I reply to this and if everyone around me with a smartphone was to use the free Wi-Fi nobody will even get to main page. Everybody has a blackberry, a droid or an iphone, or a tablet as well. including iPads and Kindles.

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