The Defense Department has launched a barrage of programs across the services to provide its civilian and uniformed personnel with mobile devices. Overseeing this vast and varied process is the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is responsible for running many of the department’s mobile pilot programs and setting up the infrastructure to provide applications and services to warfighters.

The head of DISA and top technology officers outlined how individual agencies fit into those efforts at the Defense & Security Mobile Technologies Symposium in Washington, D.C. last week.

DISA’s key goal is to provide the infrastructure to move data to warfighter’s mobile devices, said the agency’s director, Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins, Jr., UASF (pictured above, right, upon accepting the new role in January). The agency plans to achieve this by instating mobile device policies and standards, Hawkins said. But he added that DISA first must revise its formerly restrictive mobile policies.

One of the major issues facing DISA is managing all of the various efforts underway in the services and agencies. Hawkins described the large number of pilot programs as a “cataclysmic confusion,” noting that there are 25 ongoing mobile pilot programs in the Air Force alone.

To get mobile devices into the hands of warfighters, DISA’s program office is working with the services to pull together the best applications and architectures, Hawkins said. The agency is also working on mobile programs with the intelligence community. As part of this process, DISA will be providing quarterly status updates to the National Security Agency. “We are now brining everything together. We are pooling our resources and talent,” he said.

By 2019, DISA plans to have a subscription-based system available to all DOD personnel, with a mobile applications store supporting user needs for secure applications and smart devices, Hawkins said. The agency’s goal is to meet user demand for voice, data, video and imagery from top secret to unclassified levels by 2014.

To provide timely mobile services, Hawkins wants DISA to roll out new capabilities every 120 days. By March 2013, he said that the agency will have a secure smart phone in the hands of users and by the end of 2013, to have thousands of devices available to personnel. Part of this offering will be a bring-your-own device (BYOD) plan for unclassified applications, he said. For classified applications, the agency is working with the NSA to have an initial classified capability ready by this October, with a full capability being deployed by 2014, he said.

The services’ mobile plans will fit into this framework.

One example is Air Force Air Combat Command, which has launched a pilot to determine how mobile devices can increase and develop its own applications, said Jason Howe, a strategic analyst in the office of the command’s chief technology offer. He noted that the Air Force can currently archive missions with existing mobile tools because it has built up its infrastructure by focusing on Web-based technology for the past decade. Mobile applications and systems can now be leveraged to operate across the enterprise, he added.

The Army also has major mobile device programs under way. One challenge when deploying mobile devices at the tactical level is that there is currently little or no available bandwidth, said Lt. Col. Matthew Dossman, USA, emerging technologies team chief in the Cyber Directorate of the Army CIO’s office. Besides finding additional bandwidth, the Army also needs to manage applications at the tactical level, he added. Among other things, the service must work with DISA to stock an applications store with secure tools for warfighters to use.

“Apps are the key thing,” he said.

Outside the DOD, the Department of Homeland Security also has multiple projects under way. From an enterprise perspective, its mobile efforts are designed to serve three customers, said Keith Trippe, executive director for the DHS’s Enterprise System Development Office. These are: citizens; internal users; and federal, state, local, international and private users. But to meet the needs of these various groups, the department must complete development work in key areas such as security, privacy and legal issues, he said.

Another challenge is the business model for the mobile projects, the whether they will be centralized or federated, Trippe said. DHS also requires new ways to acquire applications. The agency is looking at the GSA’s FedRAMP system as a possible framework for a DHS-wide acquisition model, he said.