The Department of Veterans Affairs is swiftly moving ahead developing secure mobile tools for its workforce as Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel is calling for broader adoption of mobile technology in the federal government.

Stephen W. Warren, the principal deputy assistant secretary for Information and Technology and CIO Roger Baker’s deputy, said Thursday there are a variety of mobile pilot projects underway to better use mobile technology to deliver services to veterans.

“Having a mobile device doesn’t do anything unless you change your business systems.” – Stephen W. Warren

The VA is already working toward exactly what VanRoekel described Wednesday as the 2012 “Roadmap for Federal Mobility” that would expedite mobile adoption throughout the federal government.

“We’re already on this path,” Warren told Breaking Gov. “It reinforces some of the things that Roger Baker has laid out for us at the VA.”

The VA, an agency with a $3.1 billion budget and 7,500 IT personnel, has a goal of moving from a legacy of federal employees sitting at desks with a computer to a workplace that allows increased efficiency with mobile tools, Warren said.

As of now, the agency has deployed 14,000 blackberries, 100 iPhones and iPads and another 100 Microphone phones and Androids, far less than Baker’s goal of 100,000 iPads and iPhones in the next 18 months.

“These mobile devices can make a critical difference in our service to veterans,” Warren said.

In one pilot project that began in December, the VA dispatched outreach counselors armed with 17 iPads to homeless shelters in Washington DC, Iowa City IA, Long Beach CA and Dallas, looking for homeless veterans. The goal was to help them gain access to VA services.

The VA counselors used the iPads when they obtained a veteran’s ID information to plug into the VA database and determine in real time what benefits the veteran is entitled to receive. There were no delays, paperwork or hassles in getting this information in real time. It was done onsite.

The program is expanding with 40 iPads for counselors who will shortly be deployed to Ann Arbor MI, Danville IL, Indianapolis IN, Syracuse NY, and San Diego.

“The homelessness project is one of the best. It’s changing the way we do things,” Warren said. “Having a mobile device doesn’t do anything unless you change your business systems.”

A mobile device will just be a toy unless you embrace what it can do for you, Warren said. “At the VA, we’re committed to turning it into a productive tool,” he added.

Warren said the VA is far ahead of other agencies in working on a 21st century model of delivering services.

His 5 tips for federal agencies to embrace mobile:

1. Understand FIPS 140-2 security compliance.

2. Enforce a complex password policy, not just one that uses a person’s name followed by 1-2-3. Use two separate passwords – one to access the device and a second password on the application itself.

3. Use a Mobile Device Manager (MDM) that can make a device inoperable wherever it is if it is lost or stolen, information in the device can be erased and it can turn into a “brick.” VA employees are required to report a missing or stolen device within an hour of discovering it.

4. Make sure you have a strong business case. “It’s great to have the toy but you have to take the toy and make it a tool,” Warren said.

5. When you give someone a mobile device, take another tool back. It doesn’t make sense to overload a staffer with too many devices. If they have a mobile device, they don’t need a laptop or a cellphone. “You have to have folks make choices,” he said.