Pentagon, White House Moving to BYOD

Posted on April 14, 2015

This summer, the Defense Department is launching a bring your own device (BYOD) pilot program at the Pentagon. It's the latest in a series of high-profile government departments to change a long-standing policy barring government employees in many departments from bringing personally owned devices to work. The Pentagon's BYOD pilot will involve users within the DoD headquarters staff and will help evaluate the security concerns of using personal devices at work, DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen said in a March 18 call with reporters.

Halvorsen said that there will be some places in the Department of Defense where BYOD will work, and some where it's not. "I think it's going to be like cloud and everything else; with DoD's size and scale, there are not going to be easy clean answers."

The BYOD pilot is the latest program test-driving mobility in the military, joining efforts that are underway involving the use of classified and unclassified devices. Those programs are now expanding beyond pilot phases, Halvorsen said.

The Pentagon's program is part of the White House's Digital Government Strategy, which began in 2012 when the White House's first Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel created an advisory group to develop a government-wide BYOD policy. That group created a toolkit for agencies that want to implement a BYOD program, which is not mandatory.

Prat Agarwal, director of business development at secure mobile printing leader Breezy, says that the toolkit is a good example of best practices. "It includes a good list of the areas that complex enterprises or government agencies should consider when they are developing their strategy for managing employee-owned devices. The program includes guidelines for managing and securing mobile devices, security and privacy controls, personal identity verification of employees, and the rights and responsibilities of device owners," Agarwal says. "But the outlines and case studies available online are a great starting point for enterprise IT and mobility managers."

It's About Secure Choice and Productivity

One of the key points in the federal guidelines is that BYOD is all about choice and productivity. The White House's Digital Government Strategy documents stress that the private and public sector entities that have adopted BYOD solutions report that allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices to access company resources often results in increased employee productivity and job satisfaction. The documents also stress that from the Federal information security perspective devices must be configured and managed with information assurance controls commensurate with the sensitivity of the underlying data as part of an overall risk management framework.

Agarwal agrees. "Embracing the consumerization of IT isn't really a choice. It's happening everywhere. BYOD lets employees integrate their personal and work lives in a way that gives them the flexibility to work in a way that improves productivity. So the only real choice is how to manage and secure the process."

Halvorsen says, "BYOD demonstrates that we as IT leaders have changed how we adopt technology. Gone are the days of long projects that address every demand. We must now integrate new technologies in a rapid, iterative, agile, interoperable, and secure method to meet changing market and customer needs. Device agnosticism is more important than ever. Our software, hardware, and applications must be compatible across common systems and personal devices. Our information security controls must also be consistent with existing law and standards to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability."

The White House BYOD website includes several case studies of completed BYOD pilots or programs in federal agencies, including:

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