Military exploring improved mobile Internet access

Military exploring improved mobile Internet access

When the Navy asked sailors what it could do to reduce the distractions that interfere with their daily activities, one of the main suggestions was for greater mobile access.  Like most Americans, sailors often have several phones, tablets and laptops between their personal and work equipment -- but unlike civilians, they often have to be hard wired to get to the Internet.

“Ships only have so many seats where you can sit at a computer and get work done,” Rear Adm. Linda Wackerman told UNSI News

In an effort to increase access, Wackerman said, the Navy established a Mobility Integrated Product Team (IPT) focused on providing greater connectivity to those that rely on Navy-related training or online classes. 

Last year, the USS Laboon served as an IPT test site, with 20 wireless tablets and 10 areas outfitted with Wi-Fi access in an effort to streamline maintenance paperwork.  IPT is looking to test Wi-Fi and other mobile connectivity options on other ships.

The Army has also made strides to increase mobile access for soldiers.  Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno directed the service branch to allow users to access training tools and information with a username and password only -- eschewing the Common Access Card (CAC), which was previously required to access the Army network’s materials.  Users can now access materials from their smartphone, tablet or computer.

However, as mobility increases, so do security vulnerabilities.  To ameliorate security concerns, the Army’s Training Management Directorate made a few changes to the network, such as segregating information that was For Official Use Only, which was only available to CAC users, Defense Systems reported

For the Marines, meanwhile, the bring-your-own-device concept “offers a number of advantages, including cost efficiency and increased worker effectiveness,” Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally wrote in the Marine Corps’ Commercial Mobile Device Strategy released in 2013.  BYOD does have challenges, including legal ownership rights and security validation, Nally acknowledged.  So the Marine Corps BYOD strategy relies heavily “on separation technology within the end node terminal device to support multiple domains.”

Wackerman, however, told USNI that the Navy Reserve is leading the way in mobility among the service branches. Reservists, for example, can get certificates on their personal devices in order to access Navy services typically off limits for mobile devices. 

“We really need to get into this age where technology is working for us, and optimized, working for us effectively and efficiently,” Wackerman said. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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