DoD works with industry to develop mobile needs

Young provided an update on mobility in the military and how the Pentagon is leveraging and tweaking commercial solutions to put mobile tools in troops' hand...

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The Defense Department is one of the largest drivers of going mobile in government. DoD is now working with industry to develop mobile devices for use across professions and across services.

“Mobile means we have to be anywhere, any time, any device,” said Dr. Robert Young — also known as Dr. Rocky — a cybersecurity and IT specialist at the Defense Information Assurance Program, in an interview with Federal News Radio at the 2011 Executive Leadership Conference.

Dr. Robert "Rocky" Young (left) is interviewed by Federal Drive anchor Tom Temin at the 2011 Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va.
As DoD plans for deep budget cuts in the coming years, commercial devices like Blackberries and iPads are simply “a better deal in the long-run,” Young said.

Young said the goal is create a “device agnostic” network where users can access the data on their mobile device, but no information is actually stored on the device. An on-demand device or application would take the data, “manipulate it and upload it to the cloud,” he said.

A variety of devices also builds in a level of security.

“If we have all Apples and one vulnerability or one exploit takes them down, then we’re all dead in the water,” Young said.

But commercial products present a challenge of connectivity, particularly for users on the edge of a network or during emergency events.

In April, DoD’s CIO Teri Takai testified before Congress that the increased use of smart phones and tablets would require “new capabilities” that now limit users in warfighting environments have limited high-speed connectivity.

“Our challenge today is ensuring our networks can securely support the information demands of our users – users who require access to information anywhere and anytime across the DoD Information Enterprise,” Takai said before a House Armed Services subcommittee.

Young cites the D.C. earthquake in August as an example of dropped connectivity due to an overloaded network.

“Say we used commercial mobiles devices. What if we lose our connectivity? What if Verizon is unable to meet our needs?” Young said. “so the military can’t be blind, deaf and dumb. We need to have that connectivity, that resiliency.”

One solution is to “marry” DoD devices with satellite connectivity, Young said.

DoD currently has “hundreds of pilots” to address the department’s mobile needs, such as a collaboration with Blackberry to allow users to encrypt the device using the Common Access Card. Ultimately, DoD is examining what industry wants and what “the normal user” wants in their mobile device, Young said.

“There’s not going to be a DoD cell phone, per se,” Young said.

Check out more interviews and coverage from the 2011 Executive Leadership Conference.

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