Army app grants access to news from DOD research labs

If you want to know what’s going on with the Defense Department’s research laboratories, the Army now has an app for that.

The service’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., has developed a new mobile application that gives users, including the general public, access to the research of laboratories throughout DOD, the center said in a release.

Available on the Apple and Android platforms, the eSmartbook application houses facts and media on each lab. Users also can access RSS feeds that put science and technology news from the Defense Laboratory Enterprise in a single location.   

The application has improved on the flow of information that has been provided as PDFs or printed copies, ARDEC said. DOD labs also can update information in real-time as event develop.

"We approached the Defense Laboratory Office and suggested [it] create a mobile application. It can be updated over the air and bring in news stories from news feeds across the DOD," said Dr. Bernard Reger, associate for business planning and development for the Armament Software Engineering Center. 

"Giving out information that's five years old can be dangerous in some cases and just not useful … The eSmartbook is more efficient, modern, and easily updated,” Reger said. “As a partner to the app, we developed a Web application for the labs to log in and update their data. As a lab grows into new research areas, that information will be available. The labs control the information and is cleared for public release."

One of the added features of the application is the transparency Reger hopes it will bring about.  "The public wonders, 'What do you do here?' Using the app, you can read about their history and what kind of work they do," he added. 

In addition to updating DOD users and the public, the app also can serve to keep researchers abreast of what other researchers are doing. "An engineer might not know what the other labs do, and it may be difficult to find out," Joe Smith, Armament Software Engineer Center engineer, said. "For instance, if I have an idea for something to help our soldiers, I have to search around for someone that can help with the new technology. I have to call around, because that information may not be readily available. Some ideas never get off the ground because of it," he said, adding that the application encourages collaboration.

Mobile apps are growing within the DOD community, although one of the difficulties in creating them is ensuring security of information and users. "We understand how to do that for traditional Army systems very well,” Reger said. “When it comes to quickly developing an app and releasing it to the warfighter, there's an extra risk. We have to figure out how to secure those apps."

The Army’s CIO office is working with the Defense Information Systems Agency on determining an application’s security, Reger said. "We're participating in the effort to establish the process for analyzing mobile applications and to approve applications for use on a government device … We're working within the Army and DISA so mobile apps can get approved and released much easier and quicker so that people can make use of them."

Defense Department CIO Tony Halvorsen has said in the past “I want you to insert the words ‘secure enough mobility’” when discussing the security of mobile devices. “I do think in DOD there will be some place where we can use ‘bring your own device’ – I do not think that’s going to be the majority of our operations just because of the complexities of trying to manage that even in a secure enough veinv…vI think there will be a niche for BYOD in DOD but I don’t think it’s going to be our big answer,” Halvorsen said. “I really think our answer is going to be a hybrid where we say, ‘Here are the devices and there will be a limited number of them so if you want to get one of those’” you can use it. 

DISA did, however, recently roll out a new classified mobile smartphone system known as the Defense Mobile Classified Capability – Secret, or DMCC-S. Developed in concert with the National Security Agency, DMCC-S uses commercial smartphones and adds enhanced security and security risk features that include camera, GPS receiver and Bluetooth being turned off. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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