Jul 18 2013

The Defense Department Is Stepping Up Mobile Security with Its Own Network

Agency invests in a proprietary 4G wireless network to optimize national security.

As part of a four-year, $23 billion cybersecurity investment, the Department of Defense (DOD) will launch a 4G wireless network by the middle of 2014.

Mobile has become the front line in the surge to defend national security. The federal government continues to ramp up efforts to expand security and streamline services.

The benefits of mobile integration are far reaching. In the Spring 2013 issue of FedTech Magazine, John Hickey, program manager for mobility at the Defense Information Systems Agency, stated that mobile technology is highly valuable to agency communication:

“We have a lot of federal and military personnel who travel around the national capital region daily as part of their primary duties,” Hickey explains. “It really helps for them to have a mobile capability, such as a smartphone or tablet, so they can collaborate with team members on the go. It gives them more flexibility to ensure we’re keeping warfighters’ needs at the forefront of every task and decision, whether in the office or on the move. My goal is to deliver the mobile technologies that will enable the collaboration.”

Significant portions of military personnel are part of the millennial generation. They are comfortable using emerging technology and have the expectation of its presence in their daily lives. The DOD aims to foster collaboration by using the familiar devices to streamline agency communication.

During his announcement of 4G secure services, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for a “new era of mobile command and control.” Human resources are an essential component of enterprise-wide mobile innovation. Advancement cannot be made unless personnel are properly trained and equipped to handle the technology.

Part of the new era of digital initiatives involves meeting the demand of an always-on workforce. Security risks take all forms, and agencies have to prepare for vulnerabilities from both external and internal sources.

According to Maj. Gen. John A. Davis, people will be essential to successful deployment of a DOD mobile infrastructure:

“DOD is looking at ways to fundamentally change the way it recruits, trains, educates, advances and retains both military and civilians within the cyberspace workforce,” he said. “The vision is to build a system that sustains the cyberspace operations’ viability over time, increases the depth of military cyberspace operations experience, develops capable leaders to guide these professional experts … and ensures that we build real cyberspace operational capability from within our human resources into the future.”

The department is looking to partner in new ways with other federal, academic and private institutions, he said, to attract and retain skilled professionals in cyberspace.

“While cyber is always viewed as a technical area,” Davis said, “the fact is it’s always about people. People are going to make the difference in cyber, just as they have in every other dimension of DOD operations. So we must get the people part right to guarantee success for the future.

Data security and troop safety are essential to the overall mission of the DOD. An investment in a proprietary mobile program ensures that all branches of the military are protected by a unified security architecture.

Because many people are familiar with 4G wireless capabilities in the private sector, the process may seem straightforward. In reality, the DOD faces many challenges in embracing mobile technology.

The goal is to have a federal application store that will be under the umbrella of a complex mobile device management (MDM) system. The MDM will act like a “traffic cop”, organizing and enabling the mobile protocol. Policy enforcement and security for the entire infrastructure will be regulated by the MDM.

Cyberthreats in the public sector will continue to intensify. Moving forward, the security objectives of the DOD are to facilitate operational flexibility and ensure an impenetrable network.