DOD mobile strategy is all about embracing the risk

As the Defense Department wrestles to get its hands around how best to incorporate mobile devices in doing business, industry and would-be defense users stand at the ready.

In mid-June, DOD took the first steps towards laying the ground work in developing its official stance on the use of personal devices, such as tablets and smart phones, when it released the opening prelude for policy that is to come. “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,” DOD CIO Teri Takai said in the Defense Department’s official mobile device strategy unveiled June 15.

According to the strategy paper, DOD is focusing its attention on wireless infrastructure, the mobile devices themselves and mobile applications. Among the biggest challenges DOD faces in implementing this new strategy is ensuring that there are appropriate certification and validation strategies in place that will facilitate the use of these devices on defense networks. Secure mobility providers, such as Aruba Networks, are stepping up offerings that they say will facilitate the mobile connectivity users crave without sacrificing security. Aruba’s ClearPass policy manager, for example, centralizes access policies across an entire network, which allows devices to link up based on individual access privileges.

The rapid explosion of the ever-evolving device market, however, highlights the need for DOD to take on a decisive level of risk, some defense officials say. “We’ve been talking about accepting risk and mitigating risk for years, but we always fall back to the black and white,” John Wilcox, director of communications and CIO, U.S. Special Operations Command, said June 25 at an AFCEA DC event in Arlington, Va. “We’ve got to embrace risk acceptance and risk mitigation and get on with it,” he added.

Brig. Gen. Gregory Touhill, director of command, control, communications and computer systems, U.S. Transportation Command concurs: “There are some folks out there who are, admittedly, still very risk-averse to some of the new technology. I believe we have to moderate risk,” he said. “It boils down to: Is it feasible, acceptable, suitable and affordable? That’s what we have to think about in inserting technologies.”

The groundswell urging advancement in mobile device policy use in the defense world comes as the federal government unveiled in late May its own set of priorities in pushing government into the digital age.

“[W]e must enable citizens and an increasingly mobile federal workforce to securely access high-quality digital government information, data and services – ‘anywhere, anytime, on any device,’” said the strategy paper, “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People."

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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