DOD takes first step toward bring-your-own-device to the battlefield

The Defense Department has unveiled an interim mobile device strategy that it says will lay the foundation for policy and implementation as it continues to grapple with how best to integrate smart phone utility into a tactical environment.

DOD acknowledged in an administrative memo just how profound a game changer personal devices stand to be in a combat environment: “Through faster access to information and computing power from any location, field units can maneuver unfamiliar environments with real time mapping and data overlay capabilities; soldiers can identify friendly forces; engineers can take pictures of mechanical parts for immediate identification and replacement ordering; and military healthcare providers can diagnose injuries and remotely access lab results while away from hospital premises,” DOD CIO Teresa Takai wrote in a June 8 DOD Mobility Device Strategy memorandum.

In its strategy aimed at establishing a common approach, DOD outlined its IT goals for capitalizing on the full potential of mobile devices, while improving wireless infrastructure, devices and mobile applications. “Although mobile devices are the new and popular item in today’s commercial market, 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 said.

According to the strategy paper, DOD will advance and evolve its Information Enterprise infrastructure to support mobile devices, institute policies and standards for devices and promote the development of Web-enabled applications. As part of that, for example, DOD will seek assistance from academia to maximize spectrum management, and will work to establish a mobile device security architecture. Device deployment considerations will be tiered according to classification and mission, and security will be maintained through monitoring by mobile device management, it said.

The strategy paper emerges as DOD continues to investigate the feasibility of a “Bring Your Own Device” environment, in addition to integrating mobile devices on the battlefield. Overarching challenges to both stem from relying on fixed and vulnerable infrastructure, susceptibility to electronic warfare and counter measures, and limited encryption and security options. Additionally, policy issues remain, such as how much mobile data to move between areas of operations and the continental United States, and also how to manage back end systems, said Lt. Col. Matthew Dosmann, emerging technology team chief with the Army’s Cyber Directorate, CIO/G6.

DOD has launched 20 mobile pilot programs to determine how best to use the devices throughout the services, however, only a small portion of funding resources are available for acquisition and deployment. “The DOD is essentially window shopping at this point,” Mark Norton, a senior engineer with the DOD CIO’s office, told Defense Systems. “It’s going to be the Wild West here as we try to figure out where the technology is going,” Norton said.

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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