(AFNS) — The Defense Department is rolling out a program that will allow users of a range of mobile devices — working anywhere from remote battlefields to the Pentagon to rapidly share classified and protected data across all components.
More than 600,000 DOD employees, from soldiers on the front lines to Joint Staff planners, use government-issued mobile devices, mostly BlackBerry phones. Several thousand of the mobile devices in use in DOD are capable of handling classified data.
The goal of the implementation plan announced today is to ensure that mobile devices throughout the department — as well as their apps, email and other functions, and the wireless networks supporting them — can operate securely in often hostile and remote environments and can adapt to ever-changing technology, even as the number of users expands.
Teri Takai, DOD’s chief information officer, told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel that the challenge for the Defense Department has been to design a unified system capable of fully leveraging the potential of devices that often differ in capabilities and sophistication in a way that will allow users to communicate in a secure, wireless environment.
“We will be able to not only use multiple commercial devices, but we will have a better process for bringing new commercial devices onto the network,” she added.
Takai, along with the Defense Information Systems Agency, is leading the effort, which will use commercial carrier networks capable of handling classified data.
“This new capability will actually allow us to use secure devices on [DOD’s classified network] and give us more flexibility in terms of what those devices are,” she said.
Takai added that the security of wireless communication amid increasingly frequent cyberattacks on government and corporate networks is chief among her concerns.
“The challenge for DOD is to balance the concern of cybersecurity with the need to have the capability of these devices,” she said. But given both their ubiquity as well as their rapidly changing technology, Takai said, the Pentagon had to act quickly to develop a comprehensive program.
“The commercial mobile device market is moving so quickly, we can’t wait,” she said. “If we don’t get something in place, we will have multiple solutions, just because the demand out there to be able to use these devices is so strong.”
Officials are planning for a phased implementation involving vendor competition for development of a system that Takai suggests, given DOD’s 3 million plus employees, could prove to be a model for large companies that also need to protect the transmission of both open and confidential data.
“We are paving the way for many aspects on both networks,” she said.