DoD exploring mobile HR apps for service members

The Pentagon is looking to expand its mobile offerings to service members so they can access their retirement, benefit and payment information directly from their cell phones.

The Defense Department is in the middle of creating a “tiger team” to build its first mobile human resources application, William Marion, the top technology official for the Air Force’s personnel branch said Tuesday.

“We have moved very heavily into Web services infrastructure over the last couple years, but we are very light on the mobile front, very, very light,” Marion said at a conference hosted by Good Technology. “Right now if you took one of our Web pages and tried to shrink it on an iPhone, it’s not usable. That user experience is just not there.”

Marion said transactional-based, user-interactive mobile applications are priorities right now.

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With those applications service members could download an app that allows access to benefit, pay and other information instead of visiting websites.

Marion said expanding mobility will be easier now that DoD is contracting for private cloud services. Last month, DoD approved Oracle to handle more sensitive unclassified data by the company at an impact level 4. Oracle and Amazon are currently the only two companies with that cloud security delineation.

Marion said one of Oracle’s HR apps was just approved for use and it has some mobility aspects to it.

“That was a big step for us because now we can start to leverage some of the innovation,” Marion said. “Some of the applications we are using in the legacy version aren’t the same as the newer versions. Some of our in-house developers run that application on top of that commodity IT software package because it is a [software-as-a-service].”

He said it is especially important to provide these apps to service members because they are used to the ease and convenience of mobility in their everyday lives.

Marion added that one of the biggest challenges is how to connect to the cloud securely as it becomes more integrated into the lives of service members.

“It’s going to be how does your [Internet of Things] device connect to your phone. All of that proliferation is really going to force us to think completely differently or maybe just a lot deeper beyond the layered security model. I think that market is maturing,” Marion said.

In the meantime, DoD still is beefing up its effort to secure mobility devices like smartphones and tablets.

The department is looking to big mobile vendors to put identity information in mobile devices directly so they can connect to agency networks without separate authentication.

DoD conducted three pilots that found credentials can be implanted in mobile devices in a secure way.