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DISA builds out classified versions of its mobility program

November 23, 2015 (Photo Credit: DISA)

Officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency are well into their mobility program for unclassified users, but efforts to extend that reach to classified users is a newer, more complex push. But that’s not stopping forward progress on the Defense Department Mobile Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) and DMCC-Top Secret.

The classified versions of the mobility program are significantly smaller — today the unclassified DMCC boasts more than 35,000 users, with roughly 1,000 more onboarding every week, according to Kim Rice, DISA’s DoD mobility portfolio manager. Currently, the number of secret-level users hovers between 600 and 700, and even fewer for top secret.

It’s not just DoD users getting their hands on classified smartphones — other federal agencies with requirements for classified communications also are getting in on the program, and DISA is working to get tablets into the mix as well.

ONLINE MULTIMEDIA REPORT: DISA Vision & Contract Guide 2016

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive both for orders coming in, as well as users happy with the quality of the capability,” Rice said. “It makes me happy because it’s the best position the program can be in — it’s a good problem to have when you can’t fill orders fast enough and people are asking, ‘What are you doing to get more capability in?’ ”

That demand for more capabilities is, like in the commercial world, unrelenting. Users with secret-level security clearances are looking for how to do things like access Predator UAV feeds on their smartphones, and top-secret users are looking for features beyond the limited voice capability they currently can use.

“It’s exciting because we’re trying to push the envelope,” Rice said. “We’re working through the inventory we have in place, and we’re also looking at partnerships with other federal agencies, leveraging their top-secret capabilities and fielding to very small sets of pilot users to help inform what that capability will look like. It’s a critical capability to be able to converse at that level.”

At DISA officials also are looking at how to integrate classified mobility with other IT-focused efforts, such as unified capabilities that enable communications across DoD.

“One thing we’re looking at across the board for the department is how to start consolidating [and] providing classified enterprise services for mobile users. That’s going to be a key direction we haven’t necessarily moved in before,” Rice said. “Instead of creating our own new systems starting from scratch, we’re leveraging what someone else already has available, building on it so when we’re up and running we will have met and expanded on what’s out there today.”

In terms of where the classified program is headed next, Rice said DISA is working to improve the quality of service and expand offerings, including tablets and more applications. Currently DMCC-S users are limited to Internet, email and voice capabilities, so significant work is going into getting apps and more data available to enable those users to work from anywhere.

“We’ve seen examples of the technology being there in terms of meeting security requirements so users can securely access the data and apps they need — it’s a matter of working with data providers [to ensure] they’re developing stuff that can be used on the road,” Rice said. “That’s new as an enterprise offering. So it’s exciting for users that they’re that close to being able to do more than just phone and email, to the ability to work away from home station, down range, wherever they may need to be.”

Getting there, though, means striking a balance between security and accommodating the speed of technology. To do that, Rice said DISA works with other agencies, including the National Security Agency, to hammer out the new steps and policies needed to move forward.

“It’s a standard thing for folks involved in mobility to be concerned about: What security measures do we have to take to make sure we can put latest technology out on our network? You have to balance security and demand — secure enough without taking 18 months to deliver,” Rice said. “We need to be mimicking what industry is doing in standard applications already out there, without reinventing the wheel. It’s a big change from how we’ve been managing, but I think there are efficiencies and a more secure process … it just needs to be dynamic.”

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