Declining defense budgets might mean there is less money for the Pentagon to buy new smart phones and tablets, but that is not stopping the military from moving forward with mobility efforts that sometimes take an unorthodox path away from the desktop.
Top Defense Department officials speaking at an AFCEA DC event in Washington on Nov. 22 all said that their mobility budgets are either flat or shrinking. But budget-cut malaise is not setting in just yet.
"We've done a good job of saving on mobile devices and wireless services, and we managed to do that without cutting devices arbitrarily or cutting capabilities," said Peter Ziomek, mobile director at the Navy Department CIO Office. "We're spending $2.5 million less on 'stuff' than we were two or two and a half years ago. We don't get to invest it in something else because the money's just not there because of budget cuts."
But Ziomek insisted that "there's a lot of room to do more with less, to take what you're doing now and translate that."
At the Marine Corps, the shift from the former Navy-Marine Corps Intranet means the service is now managing its own networks – and saving 50 percent in the process, according to Rob Anderson, chief of the vision and strategy division in the Marines' Office of the Director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers. That savings is allowing leaders there to consider creative ways to push forward with mobility.
"Do we try to go forward with something completely unique? For example...what about an IT allowance?" Anderson said. "If we have a 50 percent savings today, and we've got to replace over half of our laptops currently on the network and they haven't been refreshed in five years ... what if we were allowing the individual to replace their laptop with something they brought in but [on which] we implemented security controls? What if we give them an IT allowance to do that?"
He noted that if a laptop costs $1,200 but an IT allowance of $30 per month totals $360 a year, it could mean even more savings – and a whole new way of doing things.
"I think we have the ability to do a new approach to this and actually change the way we're not just doing mobility, but the way we do our entire internal user device," Anderson said.
Finding those new approaches will be critical to agencies seeking ways to work mobility into their budgets and into the hands of employees, according to Coast Guard Cyber Command Commander and CIO Rear Adm. Robert Day. But he noted that outdated policies that too often stand in the way of technology upgrades present a challenge.
"This is the type of thinking that's going to be required in the future," Day said. "This is the type of thought we're going to have to have. We're still using thought process of the 1970s, '80s and '90s, but these are policy changes [we need]...and that's a difficult thing to do."