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DoD’s new mobile device plan looks to get more phones, tablets to troops

by Matt Cox on February 28, 2013

The Pentagon unveiled a new plan that would give it greater control over the smartphone and tablet usage of U.S. military personnel with the aim of getting more of these devices in servicemembers’ hands.

The Defense Department’s new Commercial Mobile Device Implementation Plan will focus on “improving three areas critical to mobility: mobile devices, wireless infrastructure, and mobile applications, and works to ensure these areas remain reliable, secure and flexible enough to keep up with fast-changing technology,” according to a Feb. 26 Pentagon release.

In 2013, many troops and defense analysts say it’s about time. The military pays upwards of $3,000 per Blackberry for the security system to read classified data. Under this new plan, the Defense Department is confident it can work with commercial vendors to significantly cut those costs and outfit more troops with smartphones and tablets capable of carrying classified data.

Many troops own smartphones and iPads whose technology far exceed the dated Blackberries most often issued by the military. Defense leaders see this plan as a step toward helping the military catch up to current technology.

“This is not simply about embracing the newest technology — it is about keeping the department’s workforce relevant in an era when information accessibility and cyber security play a critical role in mission success,” said Teri Takai, Defense Department chief information officer, in the release.

The implementation plan is intended to set up a framework to equip the department’s 600,000 mobile-device users with secure, classified and protected unclassified mobile solutions that leverage commercial off-the-shelf products, the release states. It would also promote the development and use of mobile applications to improve functionality, decrease costs, and increase personal productivity, DoD officials said.

“The Department of Defense is taking a leadership role in leveraging mobile device technology by ensuring its workforce is empowered with mobile devices,” Takai said.

The effort is designed to support DoD’s Mobile Device Strategy with specific goals and objectives in order to capitalize on the full potential of mobile devices.

The Pentagon’s senior leadership recognizes mobile technology as a critical tool for joint force combat operations as long as it is managed properly, according to a DoD memo detailing the new plan.

“Commercial mobile technologies enable users to rapidly support their mission requirements through the discovery, purchase, and installation of mission-capable mobile applications. However, the rapid development of mobile technology requires a corresponding set of organizational processes to provide such applications,” the memo states.

What the Defense Department really wants is a quicker process to develop, purchase, certify and distribute these smartphones and tablets, according to the memo. To do this, the military has to develop a new framework to streamline the process, the memo states.

The initial plan to provide an operational capability that will be offered as a subscription-based service. Plans will support 100,000 devices by early 2014 with additional service provided as requirements and funding dictate, the memo states.

“The DoD Mobile Device Strategy and implementation plan aim to align the various mobile devices, pilots and initiatives across the department under common objectives to ensure the warfighter benefits from these activities and aligns with efforts in the Joint Information Environment,” said Takai.

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