VA to allow iPads, Androids, other mobile devices on its network

The Veterans Affairs Department employees expect to enable employees to use iPhones, iPads, Androids and other popular mobile devices on the departmental network this fall.

"Our date is Oct. 1 to allow these types of devices to be used inside VA,” VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker has announced said in a conference call on June 30. An audio record of the call was made available by

Details of how the mobile devices would be connected, secured and used on the VA networks and whether the department would help buy the devices for employees are still being worked out, said Baker, who also is assistant secretary for information and technology.

The VA is considering two approaches on connectivity, Baker said. In the first approach, the employee mobile device would access network applications such as data on its VistA electronic health record system in a “read only” mode. The mobile device would serve as a thin client that would not download or store any VA information.

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In the second approach, the mobile device would be able to download and store limited information, but only if the information is strongly encrypted, Baker said.

The department also is considering a variety of approaches on how employees may acquire the mobile devices.

One idea is to allow VA employees to bring in personal mobile devices that they own. “If you want to bring it in, we can monitor it, and we can give you access from your personal device,” Baker said.

The monitoring is likely to include reviewing the device and its applications before allowing connectivity with VA networks and installing security and encryption applications on the device. If the personal device were lost, it would be wiped clean of the VA information.

VA also is considering is a mobile device procurement, Baker said. But such a procurement could take months to enact, while mobile devices are regularly updated

Regarding policy, Baker said there are policies in place for use of Blackberries, and also for a pilot program allowing other mobile devices. By Oct. 1, he expects to have a general mobile device policy in place by the VA to support using a variety of “the most popular devices” — likely to include iPhone, iPad and Android — to be used in the department’s facilities and networks.

Earlier this year, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra floated the idea that the federal government could give employees $2,000 to acquire their own mobile devices to be used on agency networks.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Jul 29, 2011 VA IT Serf

I believe the upcoming FDA announcement on mobile medical devices may put a damper on this. $2K gift hun? When is DC going to wake up and smell the empty checkbook???

Thu, Jul 14, 2011

But many devices DO support VPN and/or Citrix Receiver to be able to access VA resources in a read only mode. Many of us are already doing this from our home networks or over 3G. It would improve our patient care to be able to get onto the hospital's encrypted WiFi. This is just an acknowledgment that devices already in use remotely for the same purpose they would be used for "in house" are best controlled if internal IT is aware of them, don't you think?

Wed, Jul 6, 2011

More toys for the managers and politicos to play with during meetings.

Wed, Jul 6, 2011

Concur with the comment made. BLUF: None of the mobile devices meet the current DoD or DA security requirements or the current HIPAA and Privacy Act security requirements. Until RIM, Apple, HP, Motorola, and all the other device makers provide a CAC enabled (or equivalent capability without tethering an outboard unit) device with Data at Rest encryption they may as well not include the federal government as a viable client. Moreover, for remote communications, unless these devices can support a VPN client (data in transit encryption), no government CIO is going to expend the effort to secure them. I wish the VA luck in attempting to secure the mobile devices. Current crop is not viable IMHO.

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 Oo Moment

OK, so what is the story line here? That the VA CIO doesn't have a clue about cyber security (we knew that one). Apple is the 1st to admit that the iPad was never intended or designed to be used as a business device, let alone a device that would manage content which was rich in PPI and PHI a la HIPAA data. The real story is how the VA's CISO plans to attempt to secure the use of these mobile devices! Oh, I guess the Vivek Kundra going away gift to the federal employee base of $2,000 ea for mobile devices doesn't surprise anyone...HEY VIVEK... we're in a recession -- that includes the federal government! DUH!

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