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 FierceGovernmentIT.com.

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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