The Department of Homeland Security’s Custom Border Protection branch wants to be using the most up-to-date mobile devices, but it would cost an estimated $1.3 billion just to modernize the infrastructure, says John Santo, Executive Director of the Wireless Systems Program Office at CBP.
“We have multiple legacy networks that can’t handle today’s devices and need to be replaced so we can move forward, but finding the funds is going to be a huge challenge,” said Santo, speaking at an Affirm educational session Thursday on government mobility at George Washington University. Santo, far left, was joined on the panel by IRS Associate CIO for End User Equipment and Services Carl Froehlich, Nuclear Regulatory Commission CIO Darren Ash and Upson Vito’s Don Upson.
So how to fix the problem? Santo says that CBP has perhaps the worst model that could be envisioned for buying mobility: An agency owned network supported by agency owned towers supplying service to a mere 45,000-person user base. Santo’s vision for the future is using the department’s equipment to work on commercial and national public safety networks and use the agency’s scale to lower lifecycle costs. He also would like bring in more COTS products as well that support data and video along with tactical voice.
For the IRS, Froehlich says the agency has installed software in government-issued employee smartphones that lets them do government business as well as personal like checking a non-government email account. The next step, he says, will be in having employees (namely the new generation of government workers plugged into the latest technology) choose the device they want to use in their personal life and have it configured for government work.
“Do we have the technology to do that? Of course, but its figuring out when and getting union approval that will take time,” Froehlich said.
Ash said he isn’t worried so much about the cost of the devices or the security involved since so many of the NRC’s employees already work on laptops remotely, but how to pay for the support the devices require. His goal is to lay out a detailed plan for employees that lets them know the level of support they can get if they use a certain device.
“For me it’s about managing the lifecycle of the devices and what makes the most business sense,” says Ash, noting that some devices it would be feasible to provide full support while others would only get limited support and limited access to NRC networks.