“We directly support our customers on their missions that can be enhanced with mobility,” says DOD Mobility Unclassified Capability Program Manager Al Smith.

Mar 21 2019

Defense Department Adopts New Mobile Device Management Capabilities

DOD’s service provides secure infrastructure for mission-critical mobile devices and apps.

As the Air Force scrambles to meet an ambitious roll-out schedule for a mobile app aimed at improving efficiency for maintenance crews, it depends on the timely support of the Department of Defense’s Mobility Unclassified Capability (DMUC) service for a crucial step of the deployment. 

DMUC, which manages secure mobility services for units within the DOD, has expedited its vetting process and approved the app for the carefully defended DOD environment, says Al Smith, DMUC program manager.

“We’re helping the Air Force with the app, which is designed to move their maintenance into a more mobile environment,” Smith says. “We directly support our customers on their missions that can be enhanced with mobility — which is most of them, because mobile devices are used everywhere in the DOD.”

DMUC was created in 2013 by the Defense Information Systems Agency when the DOD needed a way to securely connect users’ commercial mobile devices to the agency’s email platform. DMUC has since evolved to develop, implement and manage the mobility infrastructure that connects devices and applications within the DOD, says Smith.

“We’re charged with taking a commercial mobile device and getting it to a state where it was allowed on government networks,” Smith says. “There are a lot of challenges to work through, especially security requirements to meet to get not just the hardware devices but applications and our mobile device management ready for this environment.”

Since its inception, DMUC’s user base has grown to 130,000 military and civilian users. In addition to agency email, the program enables access for mobile devices to the DOD Information Network and to more than 1,000 Apple and Android applications. The service also provides chat and email encryption capabilities


Faster Deployment Puts Devices in the Field

DMUC has dramatically accelerated the vetting procedure for mobile applications, condensing a process that sometimes took months to complete after a customer request into one that can in some instances be completed in a few hours

The majority of apps are evaluated and deemed safe to operate without management within the DMUC security architecture. Some requests are approved as long as the app is managed through DMUC’s MobileIron MDM platform. The service also maintains a list of restricted apps that are banned from government-issued devices for a variety of reasons, such as that they originate from parts of the world that are centers of hacking activity, says Smith. 

“We also have to move where the vendors move — it’s not just new applications we deal with,” he says. “Whenever Apple or Android does an update, we have to test it, make sure it integrates well and conforms to our authority to operate. Our mission is extremely relevant to what’s happening in technology now.”

Last summer, DMUC added the Apple device enrollment program to its offerings in order to cut provisioning time of Apple devices by as much as 40 percent and to strengthen both device management controls and cybersecurity, says Smith. 

Enhancements to DMUC that are either rolling out now or planned for the near future include a digital signature app for PDF documents, improved mobile endpoint security, mobile content management capabilities and support for forensic scanning of DMUC-approved devices. 

MobileIron UEM has proved an effective MDM solution for DMUC; unified endpoint management provides security across multiple operating systems and clouds, says Smith. He and his staff still evaluate next-generation enterprise mobile management products as they emerge to ensure the service meets future customer needs.

“We focus on enhancing the user experience,” Smith says. “As everybody becomes more mobile in what they do in their jobs and has more flexibility, we try to empower that capability. We’ve been really good at enabling DOD enterprise email, but we want to take that further. As many organizations within the DOD develop apps for unique mission requirements, we want to be the platform that helps them get those apps working for them.” 

DMUC’s efficiency is also saving money: DISA announced at the beginning of fiscal 2018 that monthly service costs per mobile device would go down from $7.54 to $4.31, a 43 percent decrease.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how NSF, NASA and other agencies keep tech working for far-flung employees.

Mobility Is a Necessity for Employees

DMUC’s mission fits into a widespread technology transformation, in which enterprises are moving most of their digital assets into the “mobile universe,” says J. Gerry Purdy, principal analyst for the consultancy Mobilocity

Enterprise mobility has matured from a convenience for a few employees or departments to become a strategic necessity embedded in the fabric and mission of most organizations, says Purdy. 

“All kinds of enterprises want to reap the benefits of bringing legacy capabilities forward into the mobile world,” says Purdy. “That increases the need to automate app deployment and streamline the evaluation process that ensures that the application works and is safe in the specific mobile environment.”

Keeping up with the capabilities of the changing technology landscape and recognizing how customer needs can be met by newly available features is essential to provisioning and maintaining an enterprise mobile environment, says Smith.

“To do our job well, there are a lot of invisible things that our mission partners never know about,” he says. “We have a team behind the scenes constantly evaluating and reacting, developing strategies, providing a secure environment for folks so that they don’t have to think about it.”

Photography by Jonathan Timmes

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