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U.S. Army Plots Bring Your Own Device Strategy

Army's aggressive mobile device plans include a BYOD policy, new

J. Nicholas Hoover

February 23, 2012

4 Min Read

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By next year, the Army will begin a shift toward allowing some soldiers and Army civilian employees to use their own personal mobile devices at work, Army deputy CIO Mike Krieger said Thursday at an event in Washington, D.C.

"I should be able to walk into my office with my phone and sign a form to allow the government to put a zero client on the phone and still be able to use it on the network," Krieger said.

Krieger said that the Army should be ready within 12 months to issue a major procurement for mobile technology that will likely include virtual mobile client technology and a new version of the Army's CAC Sleds, Bluetooth readers that work with military smart cards to enable users to sign their mobile devices onto Army networks. The new version could use near-field communication, Krieger speculated.

The Army's move to a consolidated enterprise email infrastructure will help drive the military service's mobility strategy along, Krieger added. That migration, which was temporarily paused in January due to Congressional requirements, should start back up by mid-March.

[ BYOD is a growing movement in the U.S. government. See Feds To Employees: Use Your Own Devices At Work. ]

Thus far, 307,000 users have migrated to the enterprise email system, which will consolidate the Army's historically heavily fragmented email infrastructure into the Defense Information Systems Agency's data centers and provide Army soldiers and employees access to a global address book and other new features. By the end of the migration, Krieger said he expects that 70,000 users, or about 10% of the final tally of enterprise email users overall, will be mobile users.

Enterprise email should give the Army better insight into how many mobile devices the Army has and where they are, Krieger said. It will also enable better mobile security and easier management. "Enterprise email is really just the first step in moving to Department of Defense (DOD) enterprise services," Krieger said. "It has little to do with email."

Krieger's mobile vision is split between the tactical Army forces operating in the field and everybody else.

Those Army soldiers and civilians who aren't out working in tactical environments on the battlefield or other sensitive environments might well be able to bring their own devices into the Army environment, and will likely access Army IT resources via a secure, "zero-client" environment that won't require or allow data to be stored on the device. The majority of these devices, Krieger said, won't need to be ruggedized, and this strategy would support multiple mobile operating systems.

For those in the field, however, things would be a little bit more locked down. Krieger said that he anticipated devices for these soldiers and civilians would continue to be provided by the government and more of them would likely remain ruggedized. Bandwidth problems, meanwhile, would require there to be more thick clients.

Kreiger said he sees the Army's moves in mobility as only a part of the DOD's wider mobility strategy, and not an effort for the Army unto itself. "We may be pushing the envelope and moving fast, but it's all designed to be joint from the beginning," he said. "If I'm talking mobile devices, DISA is going to be the mobile provider. The Army is out of the mobile device business." DOD deputy CIO Rob Carey said at the event that the military will be releasing a military-wide mobile device strategy this spring.

Although the Army is taking the lead, the Marines and other services are close behind. James Kraft, the Marine Corps deputy CIO, said Thursday that the Marines were partnering with the Army on the broader mobile strategy, but noted that the Marines still had a number of concerns with ubiquitous mobility. "There are still a lot of issues that we are struggling with," he admitted.

Elsewhere in the DOD, there are a number of mobile pilots underway. "I can't even count all the pilots that we have going on," said Carey. Among them include everything from pilots for unclassified use to a National Security Agency project to provide secure voice over IP on Motorola Droid Pro devices up to a top-secret level.

As federal agencies embrace devices and apps to meet employee demand, the White House seeks one comprehensive mobile strategy. Also in the new Going Mobile issue of InformationWeek Government: Find out how the National Security Agency is developing technologies to make commercial devices suitable for intelligence work. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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