Defense and Security Mobility Landscape Reflects Changes and Challenges

Published: December 04, 2013


Federal agencies in the defense and security mission areas are grappling with how to effectively harness the capabilities of mobile and wireless technologies in a secure and cost-effective way. The remarks and panel discussions at a recent industry event reveal that agencies are in different points in their development, but all are facing challenges.

At the recent Defense and Security Mobile Technologies Symposium held by AFCEA-DC representatives from across the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community and other federal agencies gave their individual perspectives on their mobility plans, activities, and challenges.

A few general take-aways from the event:

  • Changing technologies – Federal agencies, especially DoD, are still struggling with the rapid change of technology and the security challenges of mobility. This is especially true for BYOD. But agencies recognize that they can’t keep spending on specialized devices at the same rates as in the past.
  • Declining budgets – Surprise! NO ONE said their budget would be up for mobility in the coming year(s). A few agency speakers said their budgets will be flat at best. Most said things like “we need to find efficiencies in our IT and shift the savings to other (non-IT) areas.”
  • Shifting view of MDM – The consensus among agencies is to move in the direction of device-agnosticism so that they can accommodate and secure whatever devices connect to their networks. This has direct implications for Mobile Device Management (MDM) policies and approaches, leading some to say that MDM that focuses on the device is the wrong approach. Similarly, there’s continued stress on implementing security at the data level, rather than primarily focusing on security at the network and device level. While these themes are consistent with what we’ve been hearing over the last several years it is clear that they are still working to make them a reality. It’s going to take longer than most anticipate.
  • CAC’s the way – DoD mobility credentialing will be inextricably linked to CACs since they are effective and ubiquitous. The Pentagon is looking for ways to allow users to access a network via multiple concurrent devices through derived credentials via Common Access Card (CAC). There are a lot of policy and technical issues to work through inside the Department and with solutions-providers, as is noted in a recent news story on the topic. While technical issues exist, governance policy is also a major hurdle.
  • More choices, more challenges – The rapid growth of Android and Apple devices is driven by end-user demand for more functional capabilities, but it also continues to present management issues. iOS devices present some challenges within the DoD because Apple doesn’t change their products simply because the government wants them to. Their branding is based on careful attention to their individual customer experience and that is not something they are willing to risk lightly.  

Clearly, the federal mobility landscape will be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future, presenting opportunities for creative solutions providers to offer policy and governance support as well as technical offerings.