The mobile warfighter: Preparing for deployment

Mark Neustadt

America's warfighters are our first line of defense — on the ground, in the air and undersea. Our government strives to arm them with the most modern and innovative tools to protect our nation and ensure their safety. Specifically, the Defense Department is now focused on making the mobile warfighter a reality by enabling secure information access for warfighters anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Recent news has focused on DOD's efforts to rapidly expand its mobile strategy to in-field personnel, and several defense agencies are implementing pilot programs for that purpose. As DOD begins to roll out a broader mobile strategy, the effort to make the warfighter mobile is moving to the forefront.

Mobile IT holds vast potential for the defense sector, including cost savings, increased efficiency, better continuity of operations and improved mission outcomes, to name just a few benefits. Additionally, deploying virtual desktops on mobile devices and thin clients allows defense organizations to deploy on-site, on-demand training that previously required printed manuals, timely presentations and costly travel.

We are beginning to glimpse the potential with early programs across defense organizations that secure mobile devices for field engineers and deliver secure, classified voice-over-IP capabilities to warfighters on the move. In addition, military service branches are starting to use commercial off-the-shelf mobile devices with government off-the-shelf radios to provide wireless communications within 150 miles of deployed units.

While defense organizations realize the great potential of mobile IT, DOD and individual military services have not moved as fast as some would like to give more mobile resources to warfighters. Defense leaders continue to grapple with implementation and management challenges and with the security concerns that have historically come with mobility efforts.

Careful planning, the right equipment and effective support are crucial to any successful defense deployment. Mobility initiatives are no different.

Like other government agencies, DOD acutely realizes the need for a comprehensive strategy that protects underlying applications and confidential data regardless of device ownership, while enabling access to existing Web- and Windows-based applications from any device. Although many agencies are focused on developing a mobile device management solution to their mobility challenges, several industry analysts have called for a more robust approach called enterprise mobility management. EMM addresses the broader challenges associated with mobile applications, devices, data and analytics.

An EMM strategy requires:

Security for mobile data with a focus on ensuring that data in transit to mobile devices and data at rest on mobile devices are encrypted using the required standards.

Comprehensive device management that ensures control over peripheral devices and the tracking of inventory and usage for government-owned devices.

Access and control policies that use endpoint analysis and user roles to determine which apps and data to deliver to individual users.

Robust authentication that works with existing tools, such as Common Access Cards, and enables defense agencies to apply the appropriate level of authentication.

Secure containerization that separates business apps and data from personal apps on mobile devices, which can be remotely administered, locked and/or wiped by IT managers.

Centralized application management and deployment via an enterprise app store to enable organizations to provision and deprovision apps more easily and ensure that mobile app access is deactivated immediately on lost devices when necessary.

Advanced analytics that provide the ability to audit devices, apps and network access and rapidly analyze the findings to ensure thorough control and governance.

Mobile warfighters could bring enormous value to the defense mission. However, a flawed management strategy can leave sensitive data vulnerable in the riskiest of situations. Careful planning, the right equipment and effective support are crucial to any successful defense deployment. Mobility initiatives are no different.

About the Author

Mark Neustadt is director of sales at Citrix Systems' Department of Defense Sector.

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