The Pentagon plans to update its mobility strategy on an annual basis to keep the Department of Defense on pace with changing technology, DOD Chief Information Officer Teri Takai said Thursday at FedScoop’s 3rd Annual MobileGov Summit.
During her opening keynote address, Takai, just two days removed from releasing the DOD Mobile Device Implementation Plan, said that the department is taking a pragmatic approach to purchasing its 600,000 devices.
“When you look at the mobile technology, it’s been relatively stable,” Takai said. “There are nuances – industry is always innovating – but there is a cycle for major innovations. We’ll be making the decisions most of you make when it comes to your phone, likely turning it over when your plan dictates or when there is a new innovation you can’t live without.”
Takai added that DOD is partnering with other federal programs already in place when it comes to implementing part of its mobile solutions. For instance, it will work with the U.S. General Services Administration on future contracts for a mobile device manager, the purchase of mobile devices and airtime and data plans.
She also said that the department is consistent with federal agencies activities regarding mobile including the federal government digital strategy and associated working groups, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Institute of Standards and Technology’s standards for architecture and security as well as working with the National Security Agency.
“We have a huge challenge ahead of us,” Takai said. “Our customer base is global from the warfighter engaged overseas to the country’s senior leadership up to the president, so we have a wide range of challenges to overcome.”
From industry, Takai looked ahead to what she needs from industry:
- Improved user experience
- Turn capabilities into mobile applications
- Keep pace with emerging technologies
- Over the Air (OTA) device management, device auditing and device provisioning
- Maintain strong partnerships with government
- Work early and often together to get it right from the start
- Combine effort to protect DOD environments from outside adversaries
The role of the Army
U.S. Army CIO Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence said she doesn’t want to invest any in information technology research and developing, saying the department will never be able to keep up with industry in that regard.
“I’d rather take that money and invest in our purchasing power,” Lawrence said.
And that purchasing power will come in handy when it comes to mobile devices. Lawrence said she’ll be deploying mobile devices as quickly as possible to the different parts of the branch that are ready for deployment. That will then continue in future years with a mobile architecture that is open and backwards compatible.
She also pointed out the Army’s currently mobile efforts:
- Enterprise email: She said that more than 900,000 joint and Army users have already been migrated to a service that provides network access anywhere at anytime through a single identity.
- Data center consolidation: She’s closed 84 data centers to data with a target to close 185 by fiscal year 2015.
- Installation as a docking station: Lawrence wants to enable a standard end-user experience for “Train as We Fight” and “Fight Upon Arrival” capability.
- “Bring Your Own Device” pilot: The program kicked off in July 2012 and the Army is helping lead the DOD and Defense Information Systems Agency pilot allowing government workers to use their personal mobile device for unclassified work.
HUD’s mobile app announcement
John Trasvina, assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, used the event to announce the release of the department’s Housing Discrimination Complaint Application, one of the first mobile applications to be released to the public by HUD.
The new application allows citizens to easily access useful information regarding housing discrimination, file complaints with HUD and find regional contact information via their iPhone.
“Having this first fair housing mobile application equips people everywhere with the information they need to combat housing discrimination,” Trasvina said. “We are maximizing the latest technology to make the process for filing fair housing complaints faster and easier and arming our fair housing partners with the information they need to understand their fair housing rights and responsibilities.”
The application is now available to the public on the App Store SM and accessible on Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
HUD also plans to release an Android version of the application.
The team from HP Enterprise Services developed the app with HUD.
“HUD needed an efficient and reliable solution to quickly extend existing capabilities to mobile computing devices,” said Marilyn Crouther, senior vice president and general manager, U.S. Public Sector, HP Enterprise Services in a statement released by HUD. “The new HP application achieves operational goals of HUD – from concept to deployment – while more effectively addressing discrimination complaints. The mobile app simplifies and increases access to government services for people.”
DISA and data
For DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, one of the biggest hurdles going forward is data – and mobile is part of both the problem and the solution.
Hawkins said that 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years – approximately 2.2 million terabytes per day – and that is making its way to the DOD. That explosion is happening in part because people are able to capture data on mobile devices, which has created an 82 percent increase in the agency’s data.
Hawkins sees mobile as a way to better manage that data as well, but the agency needs industry’s help in order to do that.
Hawkins said he is looking from industry the following:
- Secure access to mobile devices, including a two factor authentication
- The ability to deliver solution to enable the Joint Information Environment, namely a joint user network inside the JIE.
- A big data solution with end user support apps that help those at the edge of the network get the data they need to make real-time decisions.
BYOD at the EEOC
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission CIO Kim Hancher recently asked the agency’s Blackberry users if they would like to go to BYOD. The response – at least by 77 percent of the users – was no.
There were four main reasons the users cited, Hancher said. Some just love their Blackberrys, others didn’t understand the BYOD benefits, some didn’t want to use their personal phone for business, while others just didn’t want to change no matter what.
To help those who want to change, Hancher is looking to find ways to increase the benefits of BYOD. For instance, instead of getting a 15 percent discount from the carriers, Hancher wants to see if the carriers will discount government works 30 percent. Or provide them with unlimited data.
“I want to see what other perks I can offer people to want to change,” Hancher said.
That could become key as Hancher spreads BYOD throughout her agency. She said that the agency is looking to implement BYOD as some employees are already doing it by logging into their email through the web browser on their personal mobile phone.
“I want to be able to manage it,” Hancher said.
Freedom and flexibility
Walid Ali, Director of the Mobile and Communications Group, at Intel Corporation, quoted a Ars Technica study when he said the office has gone from being the place where you spend time with cutting-edge technology to a technological bone yard where you’re perpetually trapped about three years in the past.
He added that we’re at a point with mobile technology where end users expect freedom and flexibility, but the information technology pros want to make sure they are appropriately managed and secure.
Ali pointed to Ultrabook computers that include Intel’s core processor as being able to give employees the freedom and functionality they want with the security that IT pros demand.
“Ultrabooks and compatible, productive, manageable and secure,” Ali said.
White House policy on IEDs expected soon
James Craft, deputy director for information enterprise management at DOD’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, known as JIEDDO, referenced a new counter-IED plan, which will be released by the White House soon.
He pointed that out as an example of the way in which agility, speed and innovation will be embraced in federal policy.
Craft also that with a lean staff comprised of world-class experts, mobility is key in mitigating the effects of furloughs.
The future of mobile at the Postal Service
The U.S. Postal Service delivers 160 billion pieces of mail per year – about 40 percent of the world’s mail – to 150 million addresses with more than 200,000 mail carriers on the ground.
That creates a ton of data to be managed, said John Edgar, the vice president for information technology at the Postal Service.
“We need mobile devices that can put that data in the hands of decision makers to help the organization run more efficiently,” Edgar said.
For instance, a floor manager at a mail-processing center should be using a tablet device to do work from the floor looking at real time data instead of being chained to a desktop looking at old data.
“The key for us is how we put our hands around all this data,” Edgar said. “We’re entering a phase where we have more data than ever, so finding the best way to manage that will help our efficiency and mobile is at the center of that.”
FedScoop’s Kathryn Sadasivan contributed to this report.