Mission Mobility to the Edge: Extend Reach, Respond Faster, Reduce Cost
Mission Mobility to the Edge: Extend Reach, Respond Faster, Reduce Cost
Presentation at the AFCEA Spring Intelligence Symposium Engagement Theater
April 11, 2013
TONY DAHBURA, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
TASC GLOBAL SYSTEMS BUSINESS UNIT
I am pleased to be here today to talk about something that I am very passionate about – the possibilities and the challenges of mobile technologies, specifically for the government user. As you know, "mobile" is a dynamic arena. Things are changing at a rapid pace. And it’s imperative that we work together to help harness these technological advances in a way that enhances U.S. security but doesn’t threaten it at the same time.
It’s usually at this point in any presentation that we might hear a ring and a speaker might say, "Please turn off your cell phone, or put it on silent mode." Well, I’m not going to do that, because my allotted 15 minutes would be all used up – "please turn off your PERSONAL cell phone" … "okay, now your business phone" … "and now your laptop" … "and your secure tablet" … You get the picture.
Let’s first discuss some of the challenges that are hindering the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community from more rapidly integrating mobile technologies. Basically, there are three, and they fall into the categories of security, management and compensation models. These are no small issues. In fact, they are large obstacles to integrating mobile into our national security operations, with security being the issue I will concentrate on.
The first concern in adopting new mobility technologies is data integrity. Basically, as a user, I’m asking the question, "Is what I’m seeing true and accurate? Has this map that I’ve just accessed been altered in any way?" If so, not only is the map no good to the soldier in the field, but also it’s potentially dangerous and a security breach. Data auditing and authentication are key security concerns, along with certification and accreditation. Or, our soldier in the field drops his mobile device and it gets run over by a tank. How do we replace it quickly, cheaply, effectively? Or let’s say he simply loses it, and it gets picked up by someone who shouldn’t have it. What then? How do we clear the data from it, or hide it, or encrypt it so that key or classified information doesn’t fall into enemy hands?
We’re starting to get a picture here of just a few possible scenarios of how mobile technologies might be put to use – and what could happen if something goes wrong. What we need to understand as we ponder these challenges is that the government is not in the business of developing mobile technologies. This is the realm of business – private businesses that develop their devices for the commercial markets – again, the same devices that we turn off or don’t turn off when a presentation begins – devices that are being put to use in the DoD and intelligence sectors, with specialized apps that are designed for strategic use.
In today’s mobility market, technology is advancing as customer needs and demands increase for personal devices that are easy to use and also have strong analytic capabilities. Easy to use and analytical – these two criteria are the engine driving the mobile market.
Here’s the picture for our sector: We have intelligence and senior-leadership customers who need these intuitive, highly mobile solutions, coupled with the overarching need to integrate all the available data and use it to predict outcomes and actions. But at the same time, we have to keep in mind some of the challenges facing our military and intelligence customers: budgetary restrictions, threats to users, threats to the infrastructure, and the inherent dangers of losing or damaging the device itself, including what happens if it malfunctions in some way. And then you add to that mixture the fact that this is not a static environment. We’re not talking about knives that were used in hand-to-hand combat, where you could be pretty sure that you had the latest and greatest of its kind, even if it was made before you were born. No, the evolving pace of technology means that apps are available widely and cheaply; devices are being used in far more advanced ways, enabling the user in ways unseen just a short time ago. We are talking about handheld devices that rival processing power and contain built-in ISR capabilities.
With all of these moving pieces, then, we have truly unique challenges that prevent or at least hinder adoption of mobile solutions. Is the community simply throwing up its arms and waving the white flag and saying, "Enough, it’s all too much, we can’t possibly adapt and adopt?" No, of course not. There are many initiatives underway and pilot programs being tested to move toward the adoption of personal computing devices and mobile solutions.
On the user end, we have the actual hardware, equipped with the appropriate, easy-to-use solutions that are designed with the user in mind, such as email, voice capability, that sort of thing. But that device is not just there for the person holding it. It can be used as an information resource, gathering data and intelligence from the field in real-time or near-real-time, along with all of the other mobile devices that are also in use at that time. And now we start bringing in huge amounts of data, creating the need for an IT architecture that can ingest, transport and exploit that data in an environment that is device-agnostic – because not everyone in the field is going to use the exact same mobile device. So they all need to work together, right? My point: there is a flow of information from front end to back end and back again that needs to be seamless, fast and secure.
The DoD knows this. In fact, the Pentagon’s CIO, Teri Takai, had all of this in mind when she established three major strategic goals for the DoD mobile device strategy:
- To advance and evolve the DoD Information Enterprise infrastructure to support mobile devices;
- To institute mobile device policies and standards; and
- To promote the development and use of DoD mobile and Web-enabled apps.
What’s the takeaway here? DoD wants to leverage the capabilities that are available in the commercial environment, because that’s where the real innovation is happening, and they want to move quickly. It’s hard to do, but that’s not because of the technology; the technology is there. The department is already well on its way – DoD has more than 600,000 commercial mobile devices in use, from various providers. The barrier to rapid implementation of mobile apps is the safe application of that technology. Obviously, putting the technology into place without security checks puts us at potentially greater risk than not using the technology at all. But not using the technology that’s available to us means that we run the risk of falling behind adversaries who are tapping into mobile technologies at an alarming rate.
In the mobile app realm, TASC can help prototype and integrate the software that can be used in mobile devices to meet current needs. We help provide access to information systems, and we are able to aid in the safe and secure distribution of data. The result is that decision makers, warfighters and other personnel can – no matter where they are – access critical data or global situational awareness information securely. Some of the tasks are as complicated as transforming mobile devices into mini satellites that communicate with each other, fusing multi-INT data to identify patterns over time, or displaying, marking up and sharing a dashboard that’s equivalent in size to 10 rolled sheets covering several walls in a room. And users can perform these tasks as easily as if they were performing mundane, everyday administrative tasks such as completing a timecard. We like to say it this way: anytime, anywhere solutions on any authorized mobile device.
The potential for mobile apps is unlimited – and it doesn’t take long for technology to evolve from imagination to innovation. But for the government to harness the tools that will make its operations more secure and more effective, it’s essential to have the policies and safeguards in place to protect the integrity of the systems and missions and, most important, to protect the users on the edge.
Founded in 1966, TASC, Inc., helps solve complex national security and public safety challenges by providing advanced systems engineering, integration and decision-support services to the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and civilian agencies of the federal government. With more than 4,000 employees in 40 locations, TASC generates more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue. For more information and career opportunities, visit our website www.tasc.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.