WASHINGTON, July 16, 2015 – Part of Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen’s work these days involves launching the Pentagon’s first wireless network and managing the rollout of “secure enough” mobile devices, he told an audience here recently.
Halvorsen opened July 9’s DoD CIO Mobility Industry Day with keynote remarks to an audience of more than 600 attendees, about half of them from government and half from industry.
“I think Wi-Fi is our big growth [area] for the department in terms of being able to move data,” Halvorsen said, adding that January 2016 is the target date for launching a wireless network in the Pentagon.
Halvorsen said putting unclassified wireless in the Pentagon is a technical and a cultural change. The Pentagon has many sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs, he said, referring to areas or rooms where classified information is used, discussed or stored.
“My office is a SCIF, … but at least 50 percent of the time I’m not doing anything that’s SCIF-able,” the CIO said. “People who visit me ought to be able to come in and use their devices. … I want to be able to use my devices in my office. I do. But I have to be able to ensure some things.”
Halvorsen said he and his team are looking to automate systems that control the wireless network and, among other things, sound an alarm in a restricted room if someone leaves a cell phone or mobile device on. The Pentagon’s wireless system will be two-tiered, he added: one for users connected to DoD networks, and a guest network for visitors. The rollout includes deploying capability to monitor the wireless network, he explained.
About the Pentagon’s ongoing mobility effort, Halvorsen said two components of mobility are users, who want mobility, and data, which has to be mobile — and what the CIO called “point of execution” mobility.
“Point of execution says what we really want to do is get the data right to the individual — whether they’re on the battlefront, whether they’re a medical technician or a data analyst — right to them when they need the data” to execute their mission, Halvorsen said.
During a media roundtable in March, the CIO said the department had distributed about 1,500 unclassified smartphones and a lesser number of classified devices. After the Mobility Industry Day, Halvorsen said, users designated by their agency activity or command will get BlackBerry or other smartphones, tablets and laptops, depending on mission need.
DOD also is working to make more applications and services mobile friendly while maintaining appropriate levels of security, the CIO added. At Mobility Industry Day, Halvorsen told the audience that they should replace the term “secure mobility” with the term “secure-enough mobility.”
“Part of what we’ve got to understand is, what is secure enough?” the CIO said, adding that DoD and private industry both will have to make that determination.
The department also is working to create a pilot program for an effort called Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, in which people use their own mobile devices if the devices meet minimum security requirements.
Pilot Program Running Behind
The pilot program was supposed to begin this summer, Halvorsen said, but it’s behind schedule. “I thought I would have a BYOD larger pilot started by now, [but] I don’t,” he added. “My fault, [but] … we will get one started.”
The CIO said he thinks there will be places within DoD that BYOD can be used, but he doesn’t think it will be a major part of DoD operations “because of the complexities of trying to manage that, even in a secure-enough [environment].”
Ultimately, Halvorsen said, the BYOD pilot will help the department understand what service applications may be able to be made available to the workforce on their own mobile devices.