DOD balances security, cost and ease in mobility plan

DOD's new mobile strategy intended to 'keep DOD workforce relevant' through a comprehensive approach to the technologies.

The Defense Department on June 15 released its new mobile strategy, an official precept for the military’s next steps in Pentagon-sanctioned use of handheld devices. The strategy is designed to be the basis for developing policy and implementation plans to come, according to DOD CIO Teri Takai.

In a memo dated June 8 but released a week later, Takai underscored the department’s shift toward mobile and said the strategy is designed to bring various programs and initiatives into a comprehensive, military-wide approach.

“This strategy is not simply about embracing the newest technology – it is about keeping the DOD workforce relevant in an era when information and cyberspace play a critical role in mission success,” Takai wrote.

The new strategy focuses on three main areas: wireless infrastructure, the mobile devices themselves and mobile applications. Mobile strategies can be tricky to form policy around because lower cost and greater ease of use often come at the price of lessened security, something an agency can't always accept.

“Today’s mobile devices potentially provide our mobile workforce with greater access to information, enhancing effectiveness and improving operational advantage,” Takai wrote. “The DOD mobile device strategy identifies the vision and goals for capitalizing on the full potential of mobile devices and supports the end-user services approach in the DOD information technology enterprise strategy and roadmap.”

The mobile strategy’s trio of goals include expanding DOD’s information enterprise infrastructure to support mobile capabilities, instituting mobile policies and standards and promoting development and use of DOD applications for mobile and web.

According to the memo, the infrastructure expansion will be required to support secure mobile access and sharing of voice, video and data. It also will help decrease desktop hardware and technology and, potentially, associated overhead costs.

In expanding the infrastructure, DOD will have to evolve its management of precious spectrum to allow for increased bandwidth demand. The infrastructure will also need to be able to handle high-bandwidth classified and non-classified traffic – a particular challenge in both security concerns and in the combat theater.

DOD also will be working to develop policy and standards that will allow for secure use of popular commercial devices.

“Although the use of commercial mobile devices is more cost-effective than developing customized devices, most do not come equipped out-of-the-box with the security controls, access protocols and necessary security features required by DOD,” the strategy noted. “This presents undue risk to DOD,” which Pentagon leadership will have to figure out how to work around.

The strategy also is targeting the use of DOD-friendly apps, which carry security risks but offer appealing low-cost and quick-deploying functionality. To that end, the plan outlines objectives to establish a common mobile app development framework, certification process and enterprise mobile application environment, according to the document.

All of the mobile guidelines and future planning are part of broader department-wide initiatives in finding ways to keep pace with technology, even amid tight budget constraints.

"As the DOD information enterprise matures to accommodate mobile devices, DOD will continue to explore emerging technology maintaining the notion that tomorrow’s information enterprise may looks very different from today’s,” the strategy noted.

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