VA moves to protect BYOD devices

The Department of Veterans Affairs expects to formally award a contract for mobile device manager software by Sept. 30. The technology will enable VA to ultimately support up to 100,000 devices and allow employees and clinicians to use their own devices.

The “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy, however, will set limitations regarding data security on personal devices to protect veterans information, according to Roger Baker, VA CIO.

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For example, thousands of medical students practice annually at VA hospitals, and with the mobile device manager, they will be able to use their own mobile devices if they agree to certain restrictions.

Baker anticipates that the mobile device management (MDM) vendor will be publicly announced next week. VA is slated to select the vendor by the end of federal fiscal 2012, which is Sept. 30.

VA has already awarded $500 million in IT contracts in September in order to get in under the fiscal year-end deadline, he said during a Sept. 26 briefing with reporters. VA external spending for IT in 2012 is between $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion.

MDM to support 100,000 devices

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The MDM software will be more robust than the mobile manager now in place and will be used across the VA enterprise. Over time, VA expects the MDM to support up to 100,000 bought or brought devices, which could be Apple iPhones and iPads and other smart phones as they are introduced to the department, in addition to the currently managed Blackberries.

Once the MDM contract is awarded, VA will consider an internal apps store, Baker said.

It’s not clear how many mobile devices the VA will buy, and when it does, the mobile devices will not be just one particular brand.

“We will look at the business case for productivity and savings from having mobile devices,” he said, adding that “buying the devices has to be driven by the business requirement.” The services behind the device, including the MDM, the systems, and the network are specified and supported by the IT organization.

VA businesses will decide how to use such devices and whether that is best done from a BYOD or government purchased machine.

“Our major role where the device is concerned is specifying and enforcing information security for the device and the apps. From there, the type of device is so varied that we view it as a business device, not an IT device,” Baker said.