Mobile

Interior spending $50K per month on unused mobile devices

Shutterstock image: mobile data concept.

The Interior Department has more mobile devices than it knows what to do with.

In a report made public June 29, Interior's inspector general said four of the department's component agencies -- the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey -- were spending more than $50,000 per month on 1,557 mobile devices that weren't being used.

That's roughly $600,000 a year -- a healthy chunk of Interior's total $16.5 million spending on more than 35,000 mobile devices -- and the IG report notes that the waste was largely avoidable.

Interior has not been keeping a complete inventory of its mobile devices and did not have a departmentwide procurement policy in place, according to the report.

At the four agencies, the IG also found that roughly 25 percent to 40 percent of devices were not connected to Interior's mobile device management tool, MaaS360.

The lack of security oversight represents a major vulnerability, the report states, because many gigabytes of sensitive data could be downloaded to unencrypted smartphones that Interior is powerless to see or remotely wipe.

The IG report recommends complete mobile device management coverage, but Interior CIO Sylvia Burns said not all devices could be brought under MaaS360's umbrella.

In her response to the report, she noted that it is not "necessary or financially responsible to maintain one-to-one parity of device inventory with [mobile device management] licensing and enrollment counts: Bureaus and offices have legitimate business reasons for keeping certain unprovisioned devices and lines of service active for rapid redistribution or transfer when cancellation and new cellular service activation would otherwise negatively impact the mission."

Burns said activities such as fire management, law enforcement and the hiring of seasonal workers could require a supply of unprovisioned devices.

The IG said the full cost of unused mobile devices at Interior is likely much higher than $50,000 per month. Burns disputed that supposition, arguing that the monetary impact might be "materially overstated due to the scope and quality of the data underpinning the audit."

The CIO's office did concur with other recommendations, including pursuing a unified procurement strategy to cut down on wasteful purchasing.

But even as Interior seeks to better use its mobile device stock, the IG report states that auditors were only able to examine Verizon-powered smartphones and tablets at the four agencies.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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